Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cape Cod Shark Sightings Close Chatham and Orleans Beaches

In Chatham:

Swimming has been prohibited at all Chatham oceanside beaches for the remainder of Labor Day weekend because of several great white sharks spotted off Monomoy Island, Harbor Master Stuart Smith said yesterday.

Gregory Skomal, a senior biologist and shark expert with the state Division of Marine Fisheries, said he spotted four great white sharks off Chatham's coast yesterday. That prompted beach officials at North Beach, Lighthouse Beach, South Beach and Hardings Beach in Chatham and Nauset Beach in Orleans to raise the red "no swimming" signs, much to the disappointment of beachgoers trying to enjoy the last big weekend of summer.

Kevin Tomany was taking pictures of his 14-year-old son surfing at Nauset Beach in Orleans yesterday morning when his 300-millimeter lens focused on something else entirely.

He said a sudden commotion in the water about 300 to 400 yards offshore turned out to be a shark. He was able to see, through his telephoto lens, half a shark protrude briefly from the water. It wasn't the back end, either.

"I saw jaws," he said.

Tomany, an orthopedic surgeon with a summer home in East Harwich, showed the photo to the beach patrol officials on Nauset Beach. He said they downloaded the image to send it to Skomal for identification. "I don't think there is any reason to panic," Tomany said. "It was clearly far away from any swimmers."

Tomany took his shark photo at about 11 a.m. The beach patrol officials saw no reason to close the beaches at that time. But hours later in the early afternoon, they decided to shut down the beach because more sharks were in the area, he said.

"The police came and got us all out of the water," Tomany said.

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