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Swimmer Dies After Likely Shark Attack Off The Coast Of Harpswell

PORTLAND, Maine — A woman has died from “what appeared to be a shark attack” while swimming in Mackerel Cove off Bailey Island near Harpswell, according to Marine Patrol.

Kayakers nearby brought her to shore near White Sales Lane, where EMS responders pronounced her dead, according to Jeff Nichols, spokesperson for Marine Patrol.

The identity of the swimmer is being withheld until family is notified.

On Monday, boaters in the area said they heard an unusual distress call over the radio.

“We have never heard a ‘mayday’ over our radio in all of our hours out on the water, but heard today a ‘pan-pan’ which means urgent, but not yet vessel or life-threatening,” said Stacey Guth, of Portland, who was aboard the vessel Stinkpot nearby when she heard the distress call come through. “It was for a possible shark attack not far from where we were.”

Guth’s partner, David Rowe of Portland, who also was onboard the boat said the distress call was canceled about 40 minutes later.

“Seals are everywhere right now, as are schools of mackerel,” he said. “The shark probably mistook her for a seal.

Until further notice, swimmers and boaters are urged to use caution near Bailey Island and to avoid swimming near schooling fish or seals, according to Marine Patrol.

Shark attacks are usually very rare.

The International Shark Attack File investigated 140 alleged shark-human interactions worldwide in 2019 — 64 of those were unprovoked, according to the agency.

Shark sightings have become more common in Maine as ocean waters warm and sharks migrate up the New England coast.

In June 2019, a shark sighting near the Cape Neddick Lighthouse in York prompted local officials to issue advisories for the town’s beaches as a cautionary measure.

This story appears through a partnership with the Bangor Daily News.