shark patrols
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran gives a news conference about increased shark patrols. (Photo Courtesy Office of Nassau County Executive Laura Curran)

Nassau County Police Department is increasing its coastline marine and aerial patrols to watch for sharks after two shark sightings on the south shore this week, County Executive Laura Curran announced on Friday.

One shark of an unidentified species was spotted about 25 yards off the shore of Nickerson Beach on Wednesday, and two 4-to-5-foot sand sharks were spotted near the shore of Jones Beach Field 6 on Thursday. In both cases, beachgoers were prohibited from swimming for at least an hour until the sharks left the area.

“Our enhanced patrols in the air and on the water will utilize already-active police helicopters and assigned marine units to scan the water for signs of shark activity,” Curran said during a news conference at Nickerson Beach. “There’s usually a lot of other marine life where they are spotted.”

Nassau County had 20 shark sightings in 2020, with the first appearing on July 28, 2020. This number is much higher than average, Curran said, leading the county to ramp up patrols around the same time this year.

The county executive noted that the risk of being attacked by a shark is “very, very low,” however, when one is reported by a resident or police official, beachgoers will be asked to stay out of the water for their safety. 

“It’s really like an air, land, and sea mission,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Smith. “We’re looking, we’re observing, and we convey that information to make sure people get out of the water. We’ll do that in a quick fashion if anybody reports signs of shark activity.”

In the United States last year, there were 33 unprovoked shark attacks. The last shark attack on Long Island was in 2018, when two children encountered a shark off Fire Island and suffered non-life threatening injuries.

Curran also offered some guidelines for swimmers to avoid attracting sharks while enjoying the ocean waters:

  1. Stay close to the shore. 

  2. Swim in groups.

  3. Avoid swimming alone at dawn or dusk.

  4. Take off shiny jewelry in the water.

  5. Don’t enter the water if you’re bleeding.

  6. Follow the instructions of lifeguards and police officers.

Rob DiGiovanni, chief scientist at Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, which is based on Long Island, noted that the increase in shark sightings means there is a healthier ecosystem than there was years ago. The organization will also be monitoring marine activity in the waters in order to better understand changes in ocean life near Long Island.

“This is definitely a different habitat,” DiGiovanni said. “We have cleaner waterways, more food in the area, more productivity, which is what you want in an ecosystem. So part of the survey is helping to know what those animals are.”

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