Sun. Aug 14th, 2022

LIDO BEACH, N.Y. — It was a basic early summer season Friday at Point Lookout Beach on Long Island, with beachgoers frolicking within the frothy waves and basking underneath the sunny skies.

But farther out, simply past the swimmers, was a extra pressing scene: a lifeguard on a Jet Ski circling repeatedly whereas Nassau County cops surveyed the waters by boat and helicopter.

It was an instance of the stepped-up shark patrols alongside the greater than 100 miles of Long Island’s seashores which have adopted a pointy uptick in sightings final summer season.

“It’s turn out to be a part of our day by day routine,” mentioned a lifeguard supervisor, Justine Anderson, of the shark patrols her Town of Hempstead lifeguards have begun this summer season. “We’ll patrol all through the day and reply instantly if we get a report of a shark sighting.”

In the previous, Ms. Anderson mentioned, shark sightings had been exceedingly uncommon. But final summer season introduced day by day situations of sharks feeding on bait fish alarmingly near swimmers, necessitating momentary closings of swimming areas alongside Long Island’s oceanfront.

So far this summer season, a 10-foot mako shark washed up at Point Lookout over Memorial Day weekend, prompting one other spherical of shark headlines. And simply this week, the authorities mentioned a person swimming at Jones Beach might have been bitten by a shark.

Lifeguards who work summers on Long Island seashores have historically been anticipated merely to maintain a watch out for the occasional dorsal fin and assess the validity of reviews from jittery beachgoers who swear they simply noticed the second coming of “Jaws.”

But now, lifesaving departments on Long Island — that are on the similar time going through staffing points amongst a nationwide lifeguard scarcity — are taking the shark scenario extra critically.

On Friday, the Nassau County govt, Bruce Blakeman, held a information convention at close by Nickerson Beach to announce that the county police can be rising patrols this summer season, each by boat and by helicopter, to do hourly runs over the shoreline.

Numerous different departments throughout Long Island have additionally begun adopting new shark-monitoring methods and expanded their lifesaving instruments to incorporate drones, Jet Skis and paddleboards, in addition to on-line shark monitoring. Local police departments are additionally now tasked with shark patrol by boat and helicopter.

At Jones Beach and Robert Moses State Park, practically 20 lifeguards, park police and different seashore workers members have not too long ago been skilled to function a fleet of seven drones as a part of a brand new aerial shark-monitoring program.

“It’s like a brand new world we’re dwelling in,” mentioned Cary Epstein, a veteran guard at Jones Beach, which, together with Robert Moses State Park, employs about 375 lifeguards. “In my 25 years as a lifeguard, we by no means had to do that.”

“This isn’t ‘Jaws,’ we’re not speaking about a terrific white, man-eating machine — but when a thresher shark comes by and takes a nibble in your foot, that could possibly be an issue,” mentioned Mr. Epstein.

A brand new drone unit at Jones Beach is following Mr. Epstein’s lead; he started monitoring the waters final summer season along with his personal private drone after a fellow guard was gashed within the leg whereas swimming, presumably by a shark. A day later, swimming was suspended due to a shark sighting.

“We’re positively on alert and doing our due diligence,” Mr. Epstein mentioned, noting that they have been “not looking for sharks unnecessarily.”

Town of Hempstead seashores employed extra lifeguards this summer season to be careful for sharks and have mobilized a shark patrol on Jet Skis, in addition to a drone squad. In addition to water rescue strategies and C.P.R., the city’s ocean guards are additionally skilled to distinguish between shark species, to determine ones which might be extra harmful to swimmers.

Lifeguards at close by Long Beach, which closed swimming areas greater than a dozen occasions final summer season due to shark reviews, have invested in three Jet Skis to help with shark patrols.

Farther east, Smith Point seashore lifeguards conduct morning shark patrols on Jet Skis and paddleboards, seashore officers mentioned. They have additionally begun stocking tourniquets of their first help kits in case of shark assaults.

And in East Hampton, lifeguards are utilizing a web-based shark tracker to maintain a watch out for the return of enormous ones like Mary Lee, a 4,000-pound, 17-foot-long nice white that’s tagged with a monitoring gadget.

Of course, the mere point out of sharks and summer season seashores frustrates marine consultants who say the animals pose no actual elevated hazard to swimmers.

Attacks are extraordinarily uncommon domestically and plenty of consultants say shark patrols do little however gas unwarranted terror of sharks.

Hans Walters, a area scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium who has spent over a decade finding out sharks in New York waters, mentioned the newest hype over sharks close to the seashores was “very overblown.”

The menace to folks from sharks is virtually nonexistent, he mentioned, and there’s no actual proof that native shark populations have elevated lately.

“The hazard to folks is infinitesimal,” he mentioned.

There have been maybe solely a dozen documented shark assaults in New York waters going again centuries, he mentioned, and most of these have been extra doubtless unintentional collisions leading to a gash, slightly than a shark actively biting a swimmer.

Swimmers must be assured, Mr. Walter mentioned, that sharks usually are not fascinated about them.

“If anybody’s been within the ocean, they’ve already swum with sharks,” he mentioned. “They simply don’t realize it.”

The important causes for extra sightings, in response to Mr. Walters, are a rise in monitoring and an uptick within the sharing of civilian telephone and drone photos, which unfold extensively on social media and inevitably make headlines.

“These sharks usually are not on the lookout for folks,” he mentioned. “They’ve been prowling the ocean for hundreds of thousands of years and there aren’t any extra sharks right here this yr, or final yr, or the yr earlier than that. We’re simply on the lookout for them extra.”

Nevertheless, going through heightened issues from the general public, many seashore operators are in search of to guarantee beachgoers that they’re watching out for them.

“When the mako washed ashore, that spurred issues from residents,” mentioned the Hempstead city supervisor, Don Clavin. “So we needed them to relaxation assured our persons are on the market taking all these precautions, that all the things’s being monitored and we’re going above and past.”

In Long Beach, there are common sightings of spinner sharks feeding on bait fish offshore, mentioned the lifeguard chief, Paul Gillespie.

But whereas he dismissed a lot of the fuss over sharks as media and political hype, he added: “You can’t poo-poo it both, so we all the time examine each report by getting the jet skis within the water and searching up and down the shoreline.”

At Town of East Hampton seashores, sharks feeding on bait a number of hundred yards out are tolerated, but when they get a lot nearer than 200 yards from the shore, swimming is curtailed, mentioned John Ryan Jr., the city’s lifeguard chief.

“They’re feeding on bait — they’re not cruising the shorelines search for folks,” he mentioned. “But when you don’t do something after which one thing occurs, that’s an issue.”

Chris Stefanou, 26, a Long Island fisherman who participates in a federal shark-tagging program monitoring shark migration, mentioned he had seen extra sharks in native waters yearly as water temperatures had elevated.

There is a rising presence of hammerheads and bull sharks domestically, which have beforehand prevented the colder native waters, in response to Mr. Stefanou, who mentioned he had caught practically 1,000 sharks — as much as 14 ft lengthy — whereas surf-casting from native seashores over the previous 9 years. (He exhibits off his catches on Instagram.)

“There are increasingly sharks within the water, which sounds scary,” he mentioned. “But it’s truly an excellent factor as a result of it displays a wholesome ecosystem.”

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