A great white shark made a fast breakfast out of a seal Sunday morning off Whitehead Island in St. George, and a woman taking pictures was there to document it all.
Sue Fontaine reported the attack to the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy via the Sharktivity app. Shark expert John Chisholm of the New England Aquarium, who tracks such sightings, said there was no doubt that it was a great white shark.
“That’s just your typical white shark feeding on a gray seal. That’s typically what they do,” he said.
The series of photos, which he linked to from Twitter with a graphic images warning prominently displayed, show how the attack played out. The shark initially bit the seal, which was bobbing on the surface of the water, Chisholm said.
“It came back and finished it off. That’s pretty classic predatory behavior,” he said, adding that the number of photos documenting the attack helped make it very clear what happened. “That’s super helpful. A lot of times, we usually get reports after a seal carcass washes up, and people find it after a bit. We have to do some [Crime Scene Investigation] and figure out if a shark got to it. With photos like that, there’s no question about what it was.”
Mainers may not have thought that much about sharks off the coast in the past, but a shark attack off Bailey Island in Harpswell in July 2020 that killed a woman has put many on high alert regarding the apex predators. A few weeks ago, a 12-foot great white shark was seen attacking a seal near Potts Point in Harpswell. That seal survived its encounter, according to reports.
Over the past week, scientists were tracking a great white shark in Casco Bay.
Although seals aren’t the only prey of sharks, they do make up a large part of their diet, Chisholm said.
“When they are around seal colonies, that’s what attracts them. And there are seals everywhere now,” he said.
Chisholm encourages people who swim and use the ocean to take care while doing so.
“This time of year, whenever you go into the ocean, you’ve got to be prepared. Whether it’s sharks, jellyfish, undertow — before you go to the beach, prepare yourself,” he said. “We think of the beach as our playground. It’s really a wilderness area.”
He advises people to take precautions that include not swimming alone, not going out too deep, not swimming where seals or other shark bait are, knowing your surroundings and swimming at a beach with a lifeguard. Downloading and using the Sharktivity app can also help let people know more about how many sharks are around.
“We call it being ‘shark smart,’” he said. “The sharks are out there, and they’ve been out there for centuries. You’ve just got to be aware and pay attention.”