Jun 22, 2015 3:46 PM

Great white sharks 'not likely' near NH coast, experts say


HAMPTON BEACH - The reports of multiple great white shark sightings off the coast of Maine are likely inaccurate, experts say.

Police in Wells, Maine, said a group of people aboard a charter fishing boat reported seeing a great white shark off the coast of Moody Beach around noon on Saturday.

The Wells harbormaster sent out a boat to confirm the sighting, but was unable to do so.

"It's not impossible, just unlikely," NOAA shark researcher Tobey Curtis said.

Curtis said he has spoken with multiple other marine biologists from around the region regarding the sighting.

The scientists believe the sighting was of a basking shark, not a great white.

"They're much more common this time of year because of the water temperature," Curtis said.

Curtis said he had witnessed basking sharks in waters off the northeast coast personally just recently, and that there is nothing to worry about.

"They're plankton feeders and come into shore frequently," he said. "They're harmless."

Curtis said many people don't realize that basking sharks can be just as big if not bigger than great whites, often growing over 35 ft. long and weighing several tons.

"They're the second largest fish in the world," he said.

Shark sightings near N.H. beaches are also extremely rare, according to N.H. State Beach Patrol Supervisor Leland Brennan.

“I’ve been here since 1965," Brennan said. "I have never been on the beach when we’ve had a shark spotted or actually had a shark sighting."

Sunfish - also known as mola mola - are commonly confused with sharks at Hampton, according to Brennan.

Sunfish can be 6 ft. in length and weigh thousands of pounds.

Brennan said Hampton Beach's underwater landscape is simply not appealing for sharks.

“Kind of a shallow, sandy bottom," he said. "It’s over your head, but still for a shark it’s shallow. The food sources aren’t really in this close. Any sharks that come in this way are just circling in or on their way somewhere else."

One beachgoer said that even though he had heard about the reported sightings, he still decided to go in the water.

“Not stopping me from going in," Alex DeMarco said. "It’s a beautiful day outside, nice water. Gotta do it. I think the sharks are just misunderstood creatures.”


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