Swimmers were ordered out of the water at South Shore Long Island ocean beaches Monday following three shark sightings, one of which officials termed “significant.”
Logan Fitzgerald, who’s been an ocean lifeguard for three years, made the first sighting about 20 to 30 yards off the coast of Lido Beach West shortly after 10 a.m., according to the Town of Hempstead, which operates that beach. Later, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran confirmed a shark sighting at neighboring Nickerson Beach, a county-run beach in Lido Beach. And lifeguards in the nearby City of Long Beach later made another sighting.
“The lifeguards and crew who have been here for 20-plus years said this is one of the most sizable sightings they’ve seen,” Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said.
All beaches along the South Shore were notified and ordered swimmers out of the water from Jones Beach to Atlantic Beach. The sightings come a day after Adriene Esposito, executive director of the nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said swimmers cleared out of the water following a shark sighting Sunday at Robert Moses State Park, although the state parks department officials could not immediately confirm that sighting.
The sightings come two years after a shark bit a boy in the surf on Fire Island in the first confirmed shark attack in local waters in 70 years. The sightings also come on the same day as a rare fatal shark attack in Maine. The victim in that case was reportedly from New York City.
Clavin said his lifeguards believed Monday’s sighting was that of a bull shark. While shark sightings are not uncommon on Long Island, experts doubt it was a bull shark.
“Even if I was on the beach, it would be very difficult even for me to identify it as a bull shark,” said Greg Metzger the South Fork Natural History Museum’s Shark Research Program chief coordinator.
He added that the chances of spotting and correctly identifying one offhand around LI is nearly zero. He believes the sighting was of a sand tiger shark or sandbar shark, both of which are much more common around the Island and have very similar appearances to the bull shark, while being much less aggressive.
A shark was spotted in shallow waters off the Hamptons last year. A Great White named Cabot was spotted in the Long Island Sound in May 2019. Another shark named Mary Lee that, like Cabot, is being tracked by GPS, pinged several times off the Atlantic coast. And the nonprofit group Ocearch tracking those sharks led an expedition that revealed a shark nursery in deeper ocean waters off LI.
Several harmless basking sharks forced a brief swimming ban in Westhampton Beach in 2011, another shark was spotted off Atlantic Beach in 2013, and two sharks spotted off Tobay sparked a scare in 2015. Dead sharks also occasionally wash up on LI shores, such as a dying basking shark that washed up in 2009.
Lifeguards, Bay Constables and the Nassau County Police Department coordinated a patrol response to ensure beachgoers’ safety. NCPD helicopters were also deployed to monitor the situation more closely. Beachgoers were later allowed to re-enter the water up to a waist-deep level.
“Sharks are there every single day,” Metzger said. “Even if you don’t see them, they’re still there. The risk of you having a negative interaction is the same whether you see the shark or not.”
-With Timothy Bolger
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