The Vineyard Gazette – Martha’s Vineyard News


The fin of a porbeagle shark spotted in Vineyard Haven harbor drew a throng of amazed onlookers on Friday afternoon, who watched in awe as the large sea animal circled in shallow water for more than an hour.

Photos and videos of the animal showed it appeared to be around eight to 10 feet long, with both a dorsal fin and a tail fin.

Marine biologist and shark expert Greg Skomal confirmed the animal was a porbeagle after viewing video taken near shore.

The porbeagle approached the shore. — Mark Alan Lovewell

A species of mackerel shark widely distributed in the cold waters of the North Atlantic, porbeagle sharks are around eight feet long and are closely related to salmon sharks. Mr Skomal said his presence in Vineyard waters was not particularly unusual, especially at this time of year.

The identification came after significant speculation, stuns and gag traffic on Beach Road near the drawbridge on Friday, as around 50 people stopped to watch the animal swim in the harbor about 3 h 45 until sunset.

Jennifer Broddle was about to catch a ferry back to the Cape when she saw the fin on her way to Vineyard Haven, prompting her to stop and look over the sea wall .

“That doesn’t look very big for a tall white man,” she said, wondering aloud what the rest of the crowd was just thinking.

Others have speculated that it could be a sunfish, a large fruit bat or a small species of shark.

Traffic jams and gapers along Beach Road. — Elizabeth Bennett

Amanda (Scotty) Borland said she was walking her dog and looking for sea glass on Beach Road across from Winds Up around 2 p.m. Friday afternoon when she looked down and saw what she thought was a dolphin.

“Then I looked more and thought, it’s a big dolphin,” she said. “And then all of a sudden he turned around and this guy was driving on the bridge and he said, ‘I saw the shark coming for you. It happened so fast. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it. He came straight to shore.

Ms Borland’s video shows a large sea animal swimming very close to shore, getting stuck in shallow sand and then retreating out to sea.

“It was like being face to face with a shark,” she said. “I thought I was in the middle of Jaws.”

She thought the animal might have been injured, with what appeared to be back and eye damage.

“Something was not quite right,” Ms. Borland said.

The ever menacing shark fin. — Tim Johnson

The animal circled the harbor for about an hour, even having what appeared to be a standoff with a seal, according to James Moreis of Oak Bluffs.

“The seal seems to be staring at this every time it sticks its head out,” Mr Morris said.

Tisbury Police directed traffic onto Beach Road as crowds gathered to take a look at the animal, which was even visible from the Steamship Authority ferry. He then closed in on a trio of sailors, who briefly surrounded him, driving him underwater.

Mr Skomal said the animal may have been struggling physically, but did not know why it had come so close to shore.

“Most likely some sort of infection,” he said in a text message to the Gazette. “I’ve seen these sharks run aground sometimes. We don’t know exactly why, but it’s worth seeing what’s going on with this animal.

The shark remained in the harbor as the sun set over the island.

Mrs. Borland was still in shock, happy that her dog Hamish got out of the water just in time.

“I’m shaken,” she said. “What a day.”

Elizabeth Bennett contributed reporting.

More pictures.


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