Shark fatality linked to conservation success


Shark fatality linked to conservation success

Great white Terry Goss
Picture: Terry Goss.

The death of a swimmer following an attack by a great white shark last week has been linked by a shark expert to the successful restoration of seal and consequently shark populations off the USA’s north-east coast.

Julie Dimperio Holowach, 63, died on 27 July in the first fatal shark attack ever to be recorded in the state of Maine.

Robert Hueter, senior scientist and director at Mote Marine Laboratory’s Centre for Shark Research, stressed that such fatalities tended to be cases of mistaken identity and were generally avoidable.

He told the Guardian that Maine’s now-protected seal population and the linked increase in shark presence had resulted from bans both on fishing for marine mammals, in place for almost 50 years, and on damaging fishing gear, imposed 30 years ago.

Holowach had been swimming about 20m from the shore of Bailey Island near her summer home in Harpswell. The species of shark that attacked her had later been identified from a tooth fragment, and Hueter emphasised that because great whites are ambush attackers, rushing to the surface to surprise their prey, it was likely to have mistaken Holowach in her dark wetsuit for a seal.

He said that surface swimmers should avoid wearing dark clothing, going out alone or venturing too near seals or fish present in numbers.

2 August 2020

“It’s not surprising that with a restored seal population we see the predator of the seal there,” said Hueter of Maine.

In summer great whites travelled up the east coast as far north as Canada in search of cooler waters, especially as ocean temperatures increased, but he felt that it was more likely to be the increase in available prey that was the attraction off the New England coast.

Considering that it isn’t difficult for a shark to mistake a swimmer for prey at the surface, fatal attacks are very rare. Last year there were only five worldwide, one more than the usual annual average, and of those attacks only two were confirmed as unprovoked.

Florida-based Mote Marine Laboratory was in Divernet News recently because its scientists are currently involved in exploring a series of blue holes in the Gulf of Mexico.



Get a weekly roundup of all Divernet news and articles 🤿

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Divernet Posts

Diver Magazine Relaunch

Diver magazine needs YOU!

Are you still lamenting the demise of Diver magazine? Well now you can help resurrect an icon as we seek to bring back the magazine

manta ray and diver over reef in Komodo

Divers pitch into Komodo manta probe

Manta rays choose to stick around Indonesia’s Komodo National Park in unusually large numbers – and, according to a new diver-led study, this community could

female diver holding pair of Fourth Element Tech fins

Tech fins inspired by humpback whales

Whales provided the inspiration for optimising efficiency in Fourth Element’s latest fins, according to the Cornwall-based manufacturer. The “turbulence disruptors” on top of the blades

Last Breath portrait of Woody Harrelson

Woody dives into Last Breath remake

A new version of the British documentary-thriller that captured the imaginations of divers in 2019 is about to be previewed at the Cannes Film Festival.

Viagra tablet

Viagra and diving: Risk reduction

Awareness is everything in diving, and BOB COLE has advice for divers who, for whatever reason, take PDE5 inhibitors I recently met an old friend

Reefs of Raja Ampat

Reefs of Raja Ampat

Local Guide to Raja Ampat Reefs, #4 Neu Reef While Raja Ampat is home to an incredible number of dive sites, one area, in particular,

Follow Divernet on Social Media