DEM: Fin spotted at Misquamicut was sunfish, not shark

South County

WESTERLY, R.I. (WPRI) — After initially believing a fin spotted in the waters off Misquamicut Beach Friday morning was a mako shark, the Department of Environmental Management now says it believes it was an ocean sunfish.

Michael Healey, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Management, said after looking a video, the agency changed its determination.

“We [initially] didn’t think it was the dorsal fin of another frequent visitor, the sand tiger shark; it didn’t look high enough to be a great white’s fin; it wasn’t flopping over to the side like a sunfish’s fin can do; and the tail fin of a thresher is even higher than the dorsal fin, and there’s no visible tail fin in the photo,” Healey said. “A photograph, however, is static. In the video, it appears that, actually, the dorsal fin does move — whereas a shark’s dorsal fin is stationary.”

Healey said swimmers were ordered out of the water after the beach manager, lifeguards, and beach patrons saw the fin around 9:45 a.m. near the buoy marking the swim area, which is about 50 yards from shore.

“We restricted access to the water to ankle depth,” Healey said. “At about 10:30 a.m., our staff saw a second fin, much farther out.”

Healey said it is DEM policy to keep patrons out of the water for an hour after a potential sighting. He said the beach manager allowed swimmers to return to the water at 11:30 a.m.

Last month, swimming was restricted at Salty Brine and Roger Wheeler Beaches after a fin was spotted in the water there.

At that time, Healey told Eyewitness News the DEM was planning to begin tagging and tracking sharks in the waters off Rhode Island. In the meantime, the DEM urges anyone who spots a fin or shark at the beach to get out of the water immediately and alert a lifeguard.

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