NATIONAL NEWS

Shark sightings get more common at New York beaches

Jul 29, 2022, 5:01 PM
BABYLON, NEW YORK - AUGUST 21: People walk along the beach at Robert Moses State Park on the eve of...
BABYLON, NEW YORK - AUGUST 21: People walk along the beach at Robert Moses State Park on the eve of landfall by Hurricane Henri on August 21, 2021 in Babylon, New York. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency as Hurricane Henri is expected to make landfall along Long Island's coast by Sunday morning according to the National Hurricane Center. Gov. Cuomo stated that he will be deploying 500 National Guard troops and state police will have 1,000 personnel on duty in areas affected by Henri. Henri was upgraded to a hurricane from a tropical storm early Saturday morning. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

BABYLON, N.Y. (AP) — As bathers cooled themselves in the Atlantic surf on New York’s Fire Island last Wednesday, Reily Winston held up a smooth dogfish shark his friend had just caught fishing off a pier in an inlet behind the beach. He briefly cradled the bloodied shark in his hands before releasing it back into the ocean.

Shark sightings have become more common along Long Island’s shores this summer — and not just the mostly harmless, abundant dogfish.

Since June, there have been at least five verified encounters where sharks bit swimmers and surfers. Though there were no fatalities, sightings prompted officials to temporarily close some beaches to swimming, from New York City’s Rockaway Beach to Long Island’s Smith Point County Park, where a surfer beat a shark on its snout after it bit his calf.

George Gorman, regional director for the state park system on Long Island, referred to the recent shark interactions as “extraordinarily unusual.”

Sharks aren’t new to New York’s waters. Sand tiger, sandbar and dusky sharks are some of the more common species found near shore. But in the last century or so, New York state had documented only 13 shark attacks.

Experts say sharks aren’t setting out to dine on people, but instead are chasing bunker fish near beaches. Recent shark bites are likely mistakes, according to Gorman.

“We think it has to do with the menhaden fish, with the bunker fish being close to shore and the sharks just making a mistake,” he said.

Swimmers may also be interacting with sharks while they are feeding.

“When there’s a food source close to shore, they’ll come close to shore to feed on that,” said Frank Quevedo, executive director of The South Fork Natural History Museum. “If people are in the water, they may interfere with or get in the way of shark feeding.”

Factors contributing to the spike in shark sightings are the improvement in water quality and thriving bunker fish populations due to conservation efforts. Quevedo noted that in 2019, New York passed legislation to protect Atlantic menhaden, the main food source for many species like dolphins, whales, tuna, seals, striped bass and sharks.

“This is all a positive sign that the marine ecosystem is healthy,” said Chris Scott, supervising marine biologist for the Department of Environmental Conservation, during a news conference Monday. “And it’s important because sharks are a keystone species that regulate the species diversity, abundance, distribution, the marine habitat.”

Conservation efforts have led to a rebound in shark populations elsewhere in the northeastern U.S., too. In New England, a big increase in the seal population has led to a surge in visits from great white sharks — and the occasional serious attack. Sharks have killed people on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod and in Maine in recent years.

The risk of shark attack remains very low — far lower than hazards like drowning. But in response to shark sightings, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul directed state agencies to ramp up shark surveillance. State agencies have added lifeguards and deployed helicopters, drones and boats to monitor sharks along the coast.

Officials say they are still seeing a steady attendance of people coming to Long Island beaches, and shark sightings haven’t deterred some beachgoers from going into the water — though they might not be venturing as far out.

While lifeguards kept watch, New York City resident Antoinelle Hilton waded along the beach at Fire Island’s Robert Moses State Park.

“Sometimes I’m on the edge, like I don’t want to go deep in or I’ll stay on the shallow side,” said Hilton. “I just make sure I’m by the lifeguards and I’m fine.”

While out on boat patrol hundreds of yards away from Long Island beaches on Wednesday, The Associated Press didn’t spot any sharks, but did see dolphins. Lt. Sean Reilly, supervising environmental conservation officer with the DEC, says he hasn’t seen any sharks from the boat during recent patrols. It’s the lifeguards who are encountering sharks near the shore, Reilly said. On patrols, dolphins are a much more common sight than sharks.

“When I started 20-something years ago, we saw a dolphin on rare occasions,” Reilly said. “Now every time we go into the ocean, we seem to see multiple schools of dolphins.”

During the patrol, a radio alert came in, reporting shark sightings near Fire Island.

“That’s where most of the sharks are seen, by people actually catching them because they are not up on the surface most of the time,” he said.

Scott said to prevent risky shark interactions, avoid swimming in murky waters and in areas where there are schools of menhaden and seals in the water because sharks might be feeding. Don’t swim during dusk, dawn, and nighttime, when sharks feed the most. Swim in groups so sharks don’t misidentify humans as prey.

“When people go to the beach…the chances of them getting into a car accident on their way to the beach is more likely than the chances of actually seeing or interacting with a shark when they’re at the beach,” said Quevedo. “So, my two cents here is to use caution.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

FILE: Serena Williams of The United States celebrates victory during the Ladies Singles second roun...
Associated Press

Serena Williams says she is ‘evolving away from tennis’

Serena Williams says she is preparing to step away from tennis after winning 23 Grand Slam titles, turning her focus to having another child and her business interests.
9 hours ago
The USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier arrives at the French Mediterranean port of Marseille in J...
Ellie Kaufman, CNN

US Navy recovers jet blown off aircraft carrier from bottom of ocean

A U.S. Navy team recovered a military jet from a depth of 9,500 feet in the Mediterranean Sea on August 3 after the aircraft had blown overboard during "unexpected heavy weather" in July, a release from U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa said.
1 day ago
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC...
ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press

Trump says FBI searched estate in major escalation of probe

The FBI searched Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate as part of an investigation into whether he took classified records from the White House to his Florida residence.
1 day ago
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta attend the "Grease" 40th anniversary screening in August 2018 ...
Sandra Gonzalez, CNN

John Travolta pays tribute to Olivia Newton-John

Actor John Travolta, who co-starred with Olivia Newton-John in the hit movie musical "Grease," has posted a statement in tribute to the late singer.
1 day ago
FILE...
MICHAEL GOLDBERG, Associated Press/Report for America

Viral video of Mississippi arrest sparks investigation

An incident involving a white Mississippi Highway Patrol officer and three Black men is under investigation after a viral video showed the officer putting a handcuffed man into a chokehold and wrestling him into a ditch.
1 day ago
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 14: Historian David McCullough poses for a picture at the History Makers Gala a...
Associated Press

David McCullough, Pulitzer-winning historian, dies at 89

David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose lovingly crafted narratives on subjects ranging from the Brooklyn Bridge to Presidents John Adams and Harry Truman made him among the most popular and influential historians of his time, has died. He was 89.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
...
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...
AARP Utah

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
Shark sightings get more common at New York beaches