A possible shark sighting 60 yards off Devereux Beach in Marblehead Sunday morning by a paddle boarder caused a stir and a response from the town harbormaster, but police say the sighting could not be confirmed.
The report came amid a number of great white shark sightings on Cape Cod this summer, and a few around the North Shore and Cape Ann. The spotting of what appears to be a dead baby sand tiger shark on Pavilion Beach in Gloucester also created more curiosity than concern Sunday afternoon.
Early that afternoon, around high tide, Gloucester native Mike Militello's 6-year-old granddaughter, Aaliyah Marschall, was among those beachgoers who spotted a dead baby shark at Pavilion Beach. Other children had spotted it as well, but his granddaughter wasn't afraid to pick it up. Militello thought it might be a dogfish, but later the family said it appears to be a young sand tiger shark. They can grow to more than 10 feet in length.
Mom Alexis Jerome wrote in a Facebook post that her daughter "loves the ocean and wants to be a marine biologist." When Aaliyah saw the dead shark "she was heartbroken but happy she was able to experience a shark so close!"
"I think it would be interesting," Militello said, "because of all the reports of great whites in the area."
In Marblehead, at 10:41 a.m. Sunday, the beach supervisor reported to the Parks Department that a 5-foot shark was off the shoreline and asked that the harbormaster to be notified, according to the police log. Officers went to the beach and met with Recreation and Parks Superintendent Peter James, and police put him in touch with the harbormaster's boat.
"According to James, a paddle boarder claims to have seen a possible shark 60 yards offshore," the log states. The harbormaster patrol then spoke with the beach supervisor and found nothing showing. The harbormaster also reported the shark may be heading toward Swampscott, which in turn alerted their municipal lifeguards.
"Person who was paddle boarding saw a 5' thing jump out of the water. It could have been a shark," according to the police log report just past noon.
The U.S. Coast Guard was also notified and told Marblehead officials there was basking shark in the area recently, according to the police log. The Coast Guard does not typically respond to reports of shark sightings.
"That's not a typical function that we handle," said Coast Guard Public Affairs Specialist Petty Officer Zachary Hupp in a brief interview.
Hupp later said he spoke with the command center and "they are not aware of any Coast Guard units assisting with searches for clearing the beach related to a shark or even responding to shark sightings."
After speaking with officials and the paddle boarder, police determined it was not a credible/confirmed sighting. However, the harbormaster kept a second boat in the area to monitor things just in case. Four people watched for sharks from the shore.
"I think there's a little bit of sensitivity because of the great white activity on the Cape," said Gloucester Harbormaster Capt. Thomas "T.J." Ciarametaro, about the possible sighting in Marblehead. There are sharks in the waters of the North Shore and Cape Ann, and he noted the recent catch of a thresher shark. There's a lot of activity and bait around, and that eventually attracts sharks.
"I think it's just a cycle we are in," said Ciarametaro, who added that they have had no confirmed sightings of great white sharks in Gloucester Harbor or at Wingaersheek Beach this summer.
Last year, Ciarametaro recalled a possible shark sighting that turned out to be someone who spotted a spiny dogfish, also a type of shark.
Officials take reports of shark sightings seriously.
"We need to be sure people are safe," he said. "If you see something, say something," he said, and officials will check out the report.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.