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Shark spotted in Maine was likely basking shark, experts say

Don’t go changing your weekend plans to visit the beaches of Maine just yet. Experts say that a recent great white shark sighting off the coastline over the weekend was likely a false alarm.

On Saturday, an occupant on a fishing vessel more than a mile from Moody Beach in Wells reported seeing a dorsal fin protruding from the ocean’s surface. Authorities initially believed it was a great white.

The town’s harbormaster came out, but was unable to confirm the sighting. Regardless, police put out a notice to the public about the possibility of a shark roaming the waters.

“These sightings are not infrequent; however, this sighting is abnormal given the time of year and proximity to the beach,” Wells police said on Saturday.


But after viewing images of the dorsal fin, officials from the Cape Cod-based Atlantic White Shark Conservancy said it likely belonged to the more docile basking shark, which feasts on plankton, not seals and sea lions.

“We don’t have any other specifics about the sighting, but from the photos we’ve seen and the descriptions [it appears] to be a basking shark,” the conservancy said in a statement.

This is a photo of the shark spotted off Wells, Maine. This is the dorsal fin of a basking shark, not a white shark as...

Posted by Atlantic White Shark Conservancy on Monday, June 22, 2015

After receiving multiple inquiries about the sighting, police reaffirmed that claim Monday.

“At this time we are comfortable saying the shark spotted off Moody Beach was a basking shark,” Wells police said on Facebook. “They are large, and look like white sharks, but are not predators.”

In Massachusetts, where officials frequently hear of basking sharks that have been mistaken for great whites, the state created a special video to help people differentiate the two types of animal.

“Watching the YouTube video we posted — produced by the Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries — provides a lot of information and tips on how to tell the difference between white sharks and basking sharks,” officials from the conservancy said in a statement Monday.


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.