A Nassau County police helicopter flies over Jones Beach State Park. Photo by Kevin Kane.

The Nassau County Police Department launched helicopters to perform shark patrols along South Shore Long Island beaches amidst a third consecutive day of shark sightings. 

Police boats are also being used to help lifeguards monitor the situation from the shore while police choppers make multiple passes throughout the day along the coastline to search for sharks and alert beachgoers if they spot any. 

“If anything is spotted coming too close to shore or displaying erratic behavior, our pilots will get that info to all area beaches and lifeguards no matter what jurisdiction,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told reporters Wednesday morning during a news conference at Nickerson Beach in Lido Beach. 

About two hours after Curran’s announcement, a shark sighting reported off the coast of Nickerson Beach prompted the closure of swimming access at all ocean beaches in the county, Town of Hempstead, and Long Beach. Curran’s decision to increase patrols came on the heels of two prior days of shark sightings on the South Shore, which most led to the closure of Nickerson Beach, Jones Beach State Park, and Long Beach. 

As Long Islanders continue to frequent area beaches amidst an ongoing heat wave, Curran advised visitors to only swim up to their waists and remain close to the shore for their protection. Curran added that visitors should try to swim in groups and especially avoid swimming alone at dawn or dusk, when sharks are most active.  

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder noted that there have been just 12 confirmed shark bites in New York waters since 1837, making the likelihood of an attack slim. The most recent shark bite occurred on Fire Island in 2018 following a 70-year stretch of no shark attacks in local waters.

Ryder added that all visitors should listen to the directions of their respective lifeguards as air and marine patrol units continue to watch the coastline, and warned that swimmers should still use their best judgement. 

“That does not mean that they [patrol units] pass and they did not see a shark, that shark could still be there, so you have to be attentive,” Ryder said. “Just use some common sense, stay close to the shoreline right now while it’s warm, and we’ll see how this all plays out.” 

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin also held a press conference Wednesday morning at Lido West Town Park, where Connor Byrne, a town lifeguard from Rockville Centre, reported seeing a shark about five feet away from the coastline on Tuesday afternoon. 

“I’ve never seen a shark so close to shore,” Byrne said. “The lifeguards did a great job of getting everyone out and making sure everyone was safe.”

Paul Sieswerda, executive director of the marine research organization Gotham Whale, said his organization has monitored sharks off the South Shore throughout the summer, and has received reports of several different species of sharks in the area so far. 

“Some of the sharks have been hammerheads, spinner sharks, thresher sharks and animals that tend to be at the surface,” Sieswerda said. “There are a number of other sharks out there that stay below that have been there forever like sand tiger sharks, spiny dogfish, smooth dogfish and those are just natural sharks that pose no threat to humans.”  

Sieswerda said Gotham Whale has received “more than double” the number of shark sightings this summer than those in past years, but noted that the sharks that normally occur in the area and are searching for fish. Sieswerda also said many sightings have occurred in the Ambrose Channel, which is just south of Brooklyn and Staten Island.  

Also addressing heightened fears following the rare shark attack death of a woman from New York City off the coast of Maine on Monday afternoon, Sieswerda said shark sightings on Long Island “should not be conflated” with that event. 

As swimmers on the South Shore take caution moving forward, Sieswerda said the most important thing to do in the event of an encounter is to move slowly back towards the coast. 

He said, “They’re attracted by splashes and anything that looks like an animal is in distress so move carefully and slowly towards the shore.” 

Related Story: Lido Lifeguards Report Shark Sighting of “Significant Size”

Related Story: Shark Sightings at Long Island Beaches Force Swimmers Out of Water For Second Day in A Row

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