sharks in nassau
Courtesy livestream recording from the Office of County Executive Laura Curran.

An environmentalist from Atlantic Beach who called for Long Island to enact a shark alert system a decade ago expressed relief that local officials finally acted on his idea years later.

Morris Kramer, who has been fighting to protect local waterways for more than a half-century, had told the Press in 2011 that “what’s missing and so urgently needed is an immediate government system for shark awareness and shark warnings,” but local officials at the time had dismissed the idea. However, after at least one child was bitten by a shark in the surf off Fire Island in 2018, a Jones Beach State Park lifeguard said he was bitten by a shark this summer, and increased shark sightings sparked a series of beach closures in the past two beach seasons, local officials changed their tune.

“I just wanted people to have an eye out….and not make believe it’s not happening,” Morris, who blames warming sea temperatures for the increased presence of sharks in local waters, told the Press. “The water is just continually warming, there’s no stopping it, so we have to adjust to it. It’s only going to get worse.”

The Fire Island shark bite was the first on LI since 1948, one of seven in New York State since 1670, none of them fatal. 

Last month, Nassau County cited a record number of 26 shark sightings when instituting a flag warning system at Nickerson Beach to alert beachgoers when a shark has been spotted. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran encouraged other municipalities with beaches to adopt similar flag warning systems for sharks.

Suffolk County and East End officials also announced shark sightings that prompted beach closures last month. Various police agencies had been watching for sharks via boat, helicopter, and drone to alert lifeguards of shark sightings and protect swimmers.

Kramer was pleased to hear of the new efforts, but saddened that it took several people being bitten for it to be enacted.

“I didn’t feel good about it, that’s for sure,” he said. “But I’m glad [they] did this. Maybe some of the people…will pay attention to it. I think it’s a great idea. We just have to try and keep people aware that this can happen.”

Related Story: Does Long Island Need a Shark Alert System?

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