A sign warning swimmers about fluctuating bacteria levels is posted at Mackerel Cove on Bailey Island in Harpswell on July 28. A woman was killed by a great white shark in the area the day prior. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

HARPSWELL, Maine — Maine Marine Patrol says it is conducting targeted searches around the coast of southern Maine to locate the great white shark that killed a New York City woman here on Monday, and any other sharks in the area that might pose threats.

Julie Dimperio Holowach is seen in this
undated photograph. [Courtesy of Anthony Mack]

It comes just two days after Julie Dimperio Holowach, 63, was attacked while swimming in Mackerel Cove off Bailey Island in Harpswell with her daughter. Kayakers brought her ashore near White Sails Lane, but attempts to save her were unsuccessful.

A marine patrol search plane flew over the cove on Wednesday afternoon as Alfred Racine and Stephaney Illig, both of Brunswick, sat on the beach eating a picnic lunch.

“It’s kind of scary,” Racine said. “I’ve fished out of Mackerel Cove a thousand times in my life. I’ve seen sand sharks, lots of them. Never a great white.” 

He said he figured it was a case of mistaken identity on the shark’s part. 

“That shark probably mistook her for a seal,” he said, adding that the incident will likely make him think twice before getting in the water. “The chances of it happening again are really not great. But I don’t want to be the one to test it.”

In the U.S., the odds of a beachgoer being attacked by a shark are 1 in 11.5 million, according to the International Shark Attack File, which monitors shark activity around the world. A person’s chance of getting killed by a shark is less than 1 in 264.1 million, according to the agency. People have a greater chance of being struck by lightning. 

And while Monday’s death is believed to be the first fatal shark attack in the state, Maine Marine Patrol is urging swimmers and others on the water to be cautious — specifically, to avoid schooling fish and seals, which are prey for great white sharks.

In coastal areas where shark attacks are more pervasive, officials elsewhere have used nets to keep swimmers and others separated from sharks.

In New Smyrna Beach, Florida, which infamously bills itself as the “shark bite capital of the world,” officials use a five-tiered color-coded Shark Bite System to warn beachgoers of the risk — green signs indicate a low risk, while red signs indicate that multiple sharks have been spotted in the past 24 hours. 

Here in Maine, people can report shark sightings to marine patrol through this link. Specific location information — including GPS coordinates if possible — as well as photos and video could be helpful to confirm the species of the shark, according to the patrol.

Sharks are protected by the 2011 Shark Conservation Act, which strengthens the ban on shark finning, a practice that involves cutting off sharks’ fins and tossing the disfigured fish back into the water to die.