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Sunfish posing as sharks at Narragansett Town Beach?

August 6, 2011

Photo By Shaun Kirby

A shark sighting was reported to the lifeguards at South Beach Pavilion. Lifeguards shut down the beach for about an hour in order to make sure that all of the beachgoers were safe, and no further shark sightings were reported.

NARRAGANSETT—Visitors to Narragansett Town Beach had something of a false alarm on Wednesday when a shark sighting was reported to the lifeguards at South Beach Pavilion. Lifeguards shut down the beach for about an hour in order to make sure that all of the beachgoers were safe, and no further shark sighting was reported.

“People said that they saw a shark,” said lifeguard Captain Mike Florio. “There are six lifeguards on and no one has seen anything.”

Florio, a lifeguard at Narragansett Town Beach for 18 years, said that the report came from the Dune’s Club. He had also heard of a report from earlier in the day of a shark sighting in Westerly, but was not wholly sure. Bonnie Mello, beach manager at Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly, had not received any specific shark sighting at the beach there.

“Fins were spotted earlier this morning at chair 15, but nothing was confirmed,” said Mello. “We have a lot of sunfish here and they look the same.”

The lifeguards followed proper procedure by restricting beach visitors from going into the water past their knees and remained on alert for the potential of an official shark sighting. They also put a jet-ski on patrol across the beach shoreline, and the Coast Guard was notified.

“Our biggest concern is for the patrons and we take every sighting seriously,” said Florio. “We keep people going into the water at their knees for precautionary reasons, to make sure that things are safe. We will probably wait for the Coast Guard to get the clear.”

In all of his years, Florio has never physically seen a shark in the waters at Narragansett Town Beach, and attributed the sighting to the Discovery Channel’s television series Shark Week. Beachgoers may see a shark that is not actually there.

“Shark Week is on right now and people may get amped up, and around this time they tend to see things,” he said. “I understand it. In the past, people see a fin and they automatically think shark, but it is usually a dolphin or a striped bass.”

“About 10 years ago, people here thought they saw a shark fin go by,” Florio added. “Then a dolphin jumped in the air and did it about eight times. People were applauding. It was neat.”

Beachgoers were told over the intercom at the town beach to not go past their knees in the water, but that the reason was because of a shark sighting. Many still enjoyed resting in the sun and floating in the shallow water on surfboards.

“No one really seems fazed,” said beach attendant Kaitlyn Hagan. “I got here at about 1 p.m. and the warning was already in effect. I don’t really know what to think about it because I have worked here for four years and have never seen a shark.”

For more information pick up a copy of The Narragansett Times.

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