Almost a year after the sighting of a Great White shark in Boothbay Harbor, people on a tour boat operated by Quoddy Link Marine got a close up view of one in Passamaquoddy Bay near Robbinston in July.  

University of New England professor James Sulikowski believes anyone who gets a close-up view of a Great White in Maine should cherish it, because it’s not common.

“If someone has an opportunity to see one, they should enjoy it,” said Sulikowski. “Those sightings are rare.”

Sulikowski expects to see more reports of Great White sightings along the Maine coast over the next five years because their numbers are increasing because of federal laws protecting them, because of the increased seal population along the East Coast, and abecause more people are now on the lookout for creatures.

“White sharks eat seals, dolphins, or other marine mammals,” said Sulikowski. “They eat old or dying seals because those are easy prey.”

Sulikowski said the white shark population had greatly declined prior to the adoption of federal regulation because they often were killed before they’d had the opportunity to reproduce.  Great Whites—which have an average lifespan of 50-plus years—may not be mature enough to reproduce until they are 16-20 years old. 

“At 16 years of age they’re what we consider teenagers,” he said.                  

According to the Bangor Daily News, the Great White sighted in July swam alongside the tour boat in Passamaquoddy Bay for about 10 minutes, allowing passengers to photograph the huge creature. It was estimated to be 15 feet long. The tour guide reportedly said that the shark was so close “you could jump on its back.”

NOAA scientists confirmed in a June report published in the journal PLOS ONE that the number of Great Whites along the East Coast is increasing, also attributing the increase to federal conservation efforts and greater availability of food sources. They concluded that the species is recovering and that management programs are working. The report contains the findings of one of the most comprehensive studies of white sharks ever launched. 

Sulikowski stressed that while the appearance of Great Whites along the Maine coast may spark fear in some, the sighting of more white sharks along the East Coast is actually good news because they serve as predators which help to keep the ocean in balance.

“It’s a good sign that the ecosystem is slowly recovering,” he said .