Officials in New Bedford have closed several beaches because of shark fears, making the community the third in Massachusetts to take that step after sightings of the undersea predators.
The beaches were closed after a shark sighting Wednesday by boaters and will remain closed to swimming until city port security officials have confirmed the water is safe, the mayor's office said.
Stephanie Poyant, a spokeswoman for Mayor Scott W. Lang, said the mayor was erring on the side of caution.
"We just want to be cautious and that's why he's made the decision, to make sure people are not in harm's way," she said.
The possible sightings occurred around noon Wednesday when sailing instructors were cruising about a mile off the coast of Fort Tabor, said Peter Durant, head of the Community Boating Center.
"The kids were out sailing and one instructor noted a fin," he said. The second instructor did not see fin popping out of the water, but saw what looked like a "large fish," about eight to 10 feet long.
“There’s a pretty good assumption it was a shark,” since it was so big, said Durant. The boats were brought off the water and the kids “started playing games ashore.”
The city has three beaches: East, West, and Fort Tabor beaches.
Lifeguards closed the water to swimmers at around 1:30 p.m., said Kristin Decas, executive director of the New Bedford Harbor Development Commission.
Meanwhile, the harbormaster in Westport said Horseneck Beach would remain closed to swimming all day, until he can determine if it is safe to swim after two sightings there. Horseneck Beach is about 10 miles down the coast from the New Bedford beaches.
A closure of the 5-mile-long South Beach in Chatham due to numerous shark sightings also remains in effect. Chatham is about 60 miles away, as the crow flies, from New Bedford.
The Westport and New Bedford police departments and the state environmental police have asked the State Police to send a helicopter to survey the Westport, New Bedford, and Dartmouth shores, State Police spokesman David Procopio said in an email.
The helicopter is standing by, but can’t take off because of the weather, said Procopio.
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