Hammerhead shark reported off Norton Point Beach

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Aerial view of Norton Point — Photo by Michael Cummo

An eight- to 10-foot hammerhead shark has been spotted twice today, cruising the shoreline along Norton Point Beach and South Beach, in Edgartown.

The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) Martha’s Vineyard superintendent Chris Kennedy told The Times lifeguards were initially alerted to the shark this morning. Michael Creato, biplane pilot for Classic Aviation, was contacted and he confirmed the presence of an eight- to 10-foot hammerhead swimming in shallow waters near the shoreline. “He reported the shark was seen headed offshore, but we got a report not too long ago that the shark was back again,” Mr. Kennedy said, at 3 p.m. this afternoon.

Mr. Kennedy said neighboring South Beach was closed briefly by Edgartown lifeguards but TTOR beaches were not closed. “We inform everyone that a shark has been sighted in the area, and we’ll recommend that people not swim. One of the advantages we have on Chappy is that we can recommend people walk over the barrier beach and swim in Katama Bay. If someone really wants to go into the water, we’re not going to order them out.”

Mr. Kennedy said sharks are a part of the dynamic ecosystem in Vineyard waters. “There are sharks around; it’s not a big surprise. There were two sharks caught off East Beach last night,” he said. “The difference here is that most of the sharks around here are brown sharks, which are more docile, and generally leave people alone. But hammerheads are much more aggressive, and have been known to attack people.”

Mr. Creato said he’s seen “three or four” sharks from his open-air cockpit this summer, but he hasn’t seen a hammerhead shark in a number of years.  “We only see a small percentage of them,” he said. “I don’t want to scare people. If I saw one really close to shore I’d call somebody but that’s not what they do. The sandbars off off of Wasque tend to be their turf. We don’t see them close to the beach too often. Nobody’s ever been bitten on this Island.”

According to the Facebook page of TTOR, Portuguese man-of-wars have also made their annual appearance in ocean-facing beaches. The sting from a man-of-war is quite powerful. If stung, people should bathe the area in warm water and seek medical attention immediately.