After LI Shark Bites, Experts Weigh In — And Offer Safety Tips

LONG ISLAND, NY — With a number of shark bites reported in recent days, including one incident in Quogue, and others on Fire Island and at Robert Moses State Park, experts spoke with Patch Thursday about what may have led to the uptick.

Paige Finney, a communications specialist with Ocearch, said the non-profit organization’s science team was “skeptical” that any of the bites and encounters in the Long Island area have been from young white sharks.

Sharks, Chris Fischer, founder of Ocearch, has long maintained, are “great balance keepers.” The fact that they have been proliferating in recent years, after the great white shark nursery was found off the coast of Montauk, indicates that water quality is improving.

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But Finney said the most recent bites were likely not due to the white shark nursery in Montauk.

“It was likely young sand tigers or requiem sharks, so unrelated to the white shark nursery but perhaps to the inshore nurseries for those other species,” Finney said.

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She added: “The mid-Atlantic at this time of year hosts juveniles of a number of shark species. The most likely sharks you would encounter in the surf zone in that area would be small sandbars, small sand tigers and smooth hounds.”

Finney also shared tips from Ocearch on how to stay safe in the water this season:

Assess Water Conditions

Pay attention to lifeguard warnings: Check the lifeguard stands at the beach before you go into the water, to see if there are any precautions posted for surf and current conditions as well as any dangerous marine life in the area.

Rip currents: Before you go into the water, make sure you assess the area you are entering. Your trip to the beach is 132 times more likely to end in drowning than it is with a shark bite, Ocearch said. The biggest beach risks are undertows, strong currents, and rip currents. A rip current is a powerful channel of water that flows away from the shore. If you find yourself in a rip current, remain calm and swim parallel to the shore. Then follow breaking waves back to shore at an angle. Do not swim against the current. If you are unsure about water conditions you can reach out to your local lifeguard or click here.

Don’t swim in the food chain: Every time you step into the ocean you are stepping into the wild, but there are easy ways to minimize your risk of an interaction with a shark or other predatory fish, Ocearch said. Avoid swimming in areas with a lot of activity such as birds diving, fish jumping or seals swimming. You don’t want to swim out in the middle of the food chain and be mistaken for a fish, dolphin, seal or other prey. Instead, move to a quieter section of the beach.

Be cautious of marine life: While most marine life is harmless, it’s important to be cautious, Ocearch said. Avoid touching or approaching unfamiliar sea creatures, as some may be poisonous or aggressive. If stung by a jellyfish or other marine creature, seek medical attention.

Safety in numbers: When possible, swim with a buddy. Having someone with you increases safety as they can provide help or call for assistance if needed. Do not swim far out where sharks may be patrolling.

Swim in the ocean during the day: Don’t swim between dusk and dawn, when sharks have less visual information to tell them you are not what they are looking for, Ocearch said.

Avoid shiny jewelry and bright-colored bathing suits: Marine animals can be attracted to shiny objects or mistake bright colors for fish scales and may mistake it as prey, Ocearch said. If you wear bright colors or jewelry, stay aware of your surroundings.

Avoid swimming with an open wound or cut: Sharks and other predatory fish can be attracted to the scent of blood, so it is best to avoid swimming if you are bleeding, Ocearch added. Open wounds can also get infected by bacteria in the water so it is important to cover the wound with protective measures such as a waterproof bandage.

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Protect your skin: Apply sunscreen to protect your skin against harmful UV rays and reapply often throughout the day.

Stay hydrated: If you’re spending extended periods of time in the sun or saltwater, make sure you drink plenty of water. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and increase the risk of accidents.

Lightning: Lightning strikes at the beach are a far greater risk than shark bites, Ocearch said. If lightning is seen or thunder is heard anywhere in the area, get off the beach until the storm passes. Don’t wait until the storm is upon you.

“Most of all, have fun,” Ocearch said. “The ocean is an amazing, rejuvenating place to enjoy the holidays with friends and family. Remember that it is a wild place, not a swimming pool. We want our oceans to be healthy and full of abundant wildlife, so celebrate the beauty and fun of our oceans but remember to be safe.”

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