GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

August 14, 2013

Harbormasters aid blue shark

Harbormasters aid, free wounded fish

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — A blue shark first spotted off Front Beach Monday morning made a return visit.

And this time, the town’s harbormasters recognized what they suspected was the injured or sick shark’s problem, and tended to its need.

It was around 4 p.m. Monday that Harbormasters Scott Story and Rosemary Lesch responded for a second time to calls from Front Beach patrons, and soon found the shark struggling along the shore.

Almost mimicking a scene from the first blockbuster movie “Jaws”, the six-to-seven-foot long fish came close to a few swimmers in its afternoon visit.

“While a couple of teenage girls were swimming back from the raft offshore, people started pointing at the water behind them and the tip of a dorsal and tail fin became visible, apparently slowly following the girls,” Guy Page, a swimmer, told the Times.

“They got out of the water quickly, and shortly after, the shark appeared in very shallow water cruising slowly, within a foot or two of a couple of young guys,” added Page, who was visiting from Winchester and frequently scuba dives around Cape Ann.

Story and Lesch said the fish was trying to dislodge a hook in its mouth, as it may have been doing when it swam near the rocks by Front Beach earlier Monday morning.

The shark was then roped onto the sand, where Story had to restrain the shark in order to remove the hook in its mouth, and dragged it back out into the ocean.

“We released it and hoped that was it,” Lesch said.

The shark left, but returned about 25 minutes later as beach patrons again notified Lesch and Story. This time, Story dragged the fish further into the water, with Lesch tying the shark to the harbormaster’s boat.

Lesch and Story then wrangled the shark onto the boat, and dropped it back into the ocean beyond the breakwater in an effort to persuade the fish from staying away from Front Beach.

Story estimated the shark was about six feet long, but it could have measured longer if the full length of the tail was included.

Other beach patrons tried to help out as well.

“I and another (beach goer) kept trying to help turn him back out to sea, and he’d swim out then shortly return,” Page wrote.

Generally, blue sharks feed on fish and are not a threat to people, said Tony LaCasse, a spokesmen for the New England Aquarium.

While the fish are common around the North Shore, they do not usually find themselves this close to shore, but LaCasse said the fish can get caught on the hooks of fishermen.

The shark’s visits to Rockport came just days after “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel, where the predators are featured for an entire week in the summer.

Story said that, after he and Lesch dropping shark further into the ocean, it was swimming regularly.

“They don’t normally come into the beach like that,” Story said.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.