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LONG ISLAND SHARK ATTACKS: Two men bitten in one day as experts claim 'activity' points to cleaner seas

According to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Long Island has to get used to the 'new normal' of sharks being 'closer to shore than they’ve been'
Tiger Shark (Wikimedia Creative Commons)
Tiger Shark (Wikimedia Creative Commons)

An Arizona man was reportedly bitten by a shark on Wednesday, July 13. This incident took place for the second time that day at Seaview Beach in Fire Island's Ocean Beach sector, the first being an attack on a 47-year-old surfer in the morning. The second shark attack, timed at 6 pm, was another in a string of recent shark attacks Long Island had witnessed.
According to authorities, the shark attacked the 49-year-old man while he was standing in waist-deep water. The shark bit him on the left wrist and buttocks. According to Ocean Beach Fire Department Chief Ian Levin, the man has no sensation in his fingers and limited movement after the incident.


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Nonetheless, the person was able to walk out of the water and was then flown to Stony Brook University Hospital by a Suffolk County Authorities helicopter. According to the police, the man is expected to live as his injuries were not life-threatening. According to Suffolk County officials, this incident occurred less than 12 hours after a surfer was attacked by a "sand tiger shark" near Smith Point Beach at roughly 7:45 am.

The first 'Tiger shark' incident

According to investigators, surfer Shawn Donnely was bitten by what he believed to be a sand tiger shark. This incident took place in the water to the east of Smith Point County Park's main beach on 13 July. The 47-year-old man received a four-inch thigh gash. Around 7 am, Donnely claimed the shark bit him and knocked him off his board. He then claimed that he continuously hit the shark as it continued to circle him until a wave helped carry him to safety and the land. In a statement, Donnely said, "It got my left calf and knocked me off my board... when I was falling off my board, I saw the fin and its back."

I just had to take a second. I looked — my arms were there, my legs were there, I was like 'I’m okay'... I put my board between me and it, it went underneath me, I slapped it and it was gone. I went straight for the beach and rode a wave straight in," he added.

Later on in the day, Donnely was brought to a hospital, but the medical facility has not released a statement about his health status. The man was a bit shaken up, according to Suffolk's head lifeguard, but is expected to recover. Donnely said that he's been surfing in the area all his life, and it was the first time he has ever seen a shark.

According to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Long Island has to get used to the 'new normal' of shark attacks. “I think it is an indication that what we’re looking at is something of a new normal in that sharks … are closer to shore than they’ve been,” Bellone said. After the incident, Smith Point Beach was kept off-limits for any swimming activity for several hours. Park rangers, lifeguards, and deployed drones searched the area and made sure there were no signs of shark activity before the beach was reopened at around 1:30 pm.

According to Newsday, shark attacks in the region were extremely uncommon in the past. In the previous century, the attacks would round up to an average of one being reported every 10 years. The Florida Museum of Natural History's records state that there were 47 unprovoked shark bites reported in the United States in 2021, a 42 percent increase from the 33 reported in 2020.

June and July has seen a spate of attacks

A few days prior to the July 13 incidents, a Smith Point lifeguard was bitten in the chest while acting as the victim in the training practice. According to authorities, he attempted to swat the 4-5 foot long shark away and injured his hand. The parks commissioner had stated that it was the first known shark attack at Smith Point since the beach's opening in 1959. The lifeguard required several sutures but appeared to be in good health otherwise.

A lifeguard on Fire Island's Ocean Beach was also attacked by a shark a few days later, on Thursday, which he survived. On the penultimate day of June at Jones Beach, there may have been another shark bite. The incidents on Wednesday increased the total number of shark bites on Long Island to four in as many weeks.

Two Suffolk County beaches temporarily banned water activities earlier this month due to "dangerous marine behavior." One of those beaches was Smith Point. The second beach that was closed was Cupsogue. Both the beaches were later restored in time for the Fourth of July vacation.

'Shark attacks might not be a bad thing'

The number of shark sightings off the coast of Long Island is increasing. This trend is certain to continue but might be a good thing, according to experts. Scientists say this increased shark activity shows that conservation efforts have helped clean up the local waters. There is also abundance of shark food with the resurgence of bunker fish, formally called Atlantic menhaden, and are easy to spot in the clean waters. Furthermore, the warming of the oceans has drawn sharks to more northern locations. However, experts are worried that more shark-human encounters could turn people against sharks even though they are vital for the marine ecosystem. Scientists highlighted the improvement in drones and using helicopters to detect shark activity and warn people. They also said that social media makes it simple to share information and warnings.


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The manager of Stony Brook University's Marine Sciences Center told Newsday, "There are a lot more sharks than 10 or 15 years ago. We’re spotting sharks, whales, and dolphins here. In the 1960s, we did not have sharks, whales, or dolphins."