FOURTH OF JULY SHARK ALERT: Authorities ramp up patrols after possible shark attack in Long Island

New York authorities announced they would increase patrols on beaches over the Fourth of July weekend after an unusual uptick in shark sightings


                            FOURTH OF JULY SHARK ALERT: Authorities ramp up patrols after possible shark attack in Long Island
Sharks were spotted on several occasions in close proximity to swimmers, thereby resulting in temporary closures of some beaches (Representational image/Wikimedia Creative Commons and @BucketBuoy/Twitter)
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New York City authorities are reportedly ramping up efforts to patrol for sharks after an unusual uptick in sightings and a possible shark attack at a Long Island beach. This comes after experts declared that shark attacks pose an exceptionally low risk of danger.

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The Nassau County Police Department revealed on Thursday, June 30, that a 57-year-old man who was swimming at Jones Beach, a barrier island off the southern coast of Long Island, sustained a laceration on his right foot. Medics later identified the injury as a possible shark bite. Authorities subsequently announced they would increase patrols on beaches over the Fourth of July weekend. It's worth noting that Jones Beach is one of the most popular summer destinations for New Yorkers, with more than 6 million visitors every year.

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While shark attacks are rather uncommon, they are extremely rare in New York. However, there has been an increase in shark sightings off New York beaches since last summer. Sharks were spotted on several occasions feeding on schools of fish in close proximity to swimmers, thereby resulting in temporary closures of some beaches. In a press conference on Friday, July 1, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman announced an increase in police shark patrols for the summer, which would include efforts by boat, helicopter, and drones, as well as hourly sweeps along the shoreline, according to Business Insider.

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However, experts have continued to maintain that shark attacks are exceedingly rare. "The danger to people is infinitesimal," Hans Walters, a scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium, told The New York Times, adding that there is no evidence of an uptick of sharks in New York's waters and that reported fears are "very overblown." 

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While the police statement did not clarify what kind of shark may have nibbled at the Jones Beach swimmer, a video shared on Twitter by the Jones Beach Lifeguards on May 30 showed a shark struggling near Point Lookout, a small settlement in the town of Hempstead on the west side of Jones Channel, across from Jones Beach. The lifeguards said the struggling 10-foot-long marine creature looked like a Mako shark and was able to swim away shortly after.

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"A commercial fisherman saw a shark struggling along the shoreline of a Long Island beach," they tweeted alongside video footage of the shark flopping on the shore. "This happened at Point Lookout just north of the Loop Parkway Bridge. The fisherman pulled over to help and called the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Town of Hempstead Bay constable. By the time they arrived, the shark was able to swim away. It is believed to be a Mako Shark, around 10 feet with no pectoral fin," officials added.

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In July last year, a lifeguard swimming near the Central Mall at Jones Beach reported sustaining an inch-long bite on his left calf after spotting a fin in the water. State Park officials subsequently cleared swimmers out of the water but weren't able to spot the shark. That said, the non-profit marine research group Ocearch last tracked a shark off Jones Beach in 2017. The organization, which tags and tracks various forms of ocean wildlife, is currently tracking an 883-pound shark off the coast of Delaware, south of the southern tip of New Jersey, the New York Daily News reported.

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