Eddie “Diver Ed” Monat, a saltwater diver who leads summertime tours of marine life in Frenchman Bay off Bar Harbor, had a close encounter of a toothy kind this past weekend.
In a video he posted on Facebook, the eerie outline of a shark can be seen in the plankton-rich murkiness of the bay while he swims below the surface, looking for smaller creatures to bring up to his customers on the Starfish Enterprise.
Monat narrates the video, telling viewers he at first was not aware that the shark – which he thinks was a porbeagle – was shadowing him in the water. He admits to getting a little excited, as evidenced by his heart rate monitor beeping as he slowly makes his way to the surface.
“I was a little bit worked up,” he says on the video.
Monat also says, ominously, that a decapitated seal was spotted in the area a week or so ago.
Contacted Tuesday evening, Monat said the video was shot Saturday, Aug. 15 on the north side of Burnt Porcupine Island. A licensed scallop diver who has regularly dipped below the waves of Frenchman Bay for about 30 years, Monat said the only sharks he has seen in the bay prior to last weekend are dogfish, a small kind of shark that avoids humans.
“I had another [diving] trip after that one,” Monat said. “I had to really talk myself into going back in the water.”
There is a long history of summertime shark sightings along the Maine coast, but some believe they are becoming more frequent as water temperatures increase in the Gulf of Maine. Some of those encounters have been caught on camera.
According to marine scientists, sharks have highly sensitive electrical sensors on either side of their snouts that help them find prey but also might attract them to batteries that power underwater cameras.
In 2010, a diver videotaping empty salmon pens in Broad Cove off Eastport had an encounter with a porbeagle shark that took a few bites at his camera. Last summer, a passenger on a tour boat videotaped a great white shark in Passamaquoddy Bay.
Regardless of the size, increasing numbers of great whites might appear in the Gulf of Maine in summer because of the gulf’s seal population, which is believed to be on the rise, according to experts. Scientists and fishermen have said that though shark sightings are rare, they are not surprising, given the wide coastal territory of sharks and the food supply in the gulf.
Besides great whites and the ubiquitous dogfish, other types of sharks that have been seen off Maine’s coast over the years include basking, sand, tiger, mako, thresher, and blue sharks.