Long Island Shark Attacks Prompt Patrols & Beach Shutdowns

There have been at least six shark attacks this summer.

More sharks are a sign of a healthy ocean ecosystem, but a recent series of attacks and encounters off Long Island have prompted new shark patrols and even some beach shutdowns in recent weeks.

Experts caution that the chances of being bitten by a shark are still extremely low, and accidental drowning remains a much bigger danger at the beach. Still, the incidents have left some residents and tourists on edge. Here's what you need to know about what's been happening this summer and how to stay safe. 

Where have there been shark attacks?

Summer 2022 has brought an unusual number of shark attacks to Long Island. The first attack of summer occurred when a swimmer was bitten on the foot off Jones Beach in late June. Two more occurred in early July. One happened off Smith Point and Cupsogue beaches on Fire Island on Sunday, July 3. ABC7 New York reports that a lifeguard was bit during a rescue training. The other attack on a lifeguard occurred on Thursday, July 7, off Fire Island's Ocean Beach. Both resulted in minor injuries.

An additional two attacks occurred on the same day on July 13, one off Ocean Beach and one off Smith Point Beach, according to NBC4 New York. One was on a surfer, who suffered a four-inch gash on his leg, while the second was on a swimmer in waist-deep water, who suffered bites to his wrist and buttocks.

A sixth shark attack occurred on July 21, when a surfer off Fire Island's Kismet Beach was bitten on the foot. ABC7 New York reports that the victim sustained a four-inch gash, but was otherwise unharmed. In addition, what appeared to be a great white shark washed up on a beach in the Hamptons:

Shark attacks are historically rare on Long Island. Before this summer, for example, officials say Smith Point Beach had never had a shark attack since its opening in the 1950s. Historical records show only about one shark bite per decade on Long Island's beaches.

What are shark patrols and why have they closed down beaches?

The recent incidents have prompted action from Governor Kathy Hochul, who has stepped up patrols for sharks across Long Island.

The New York Postreports that the state is deploying drones, helicopters, patrol boats, and lifeguards up and down the South Shore to keep a closer eye on sharks.

"We are taking action to expand patrols for sharks and protect beachgoers from potentially dangerous situations," Hochul said. "I encourage all New Yorkers to listen to local authorities and take precautions to help ensure safe and responsible beach trips this summer."

The patrols have already prompted some beach closures. New York City's seven Rockaway beaches were closed on Tuesday, July 19 after two shark sightings, including a reported bump of a swimmer. One beachgoer even captured a video of a shark feeding off Beach 121st Street:

Shorter closings occurred on the same day in Hempstead and Jones Beach after sightings there. 

How can I stay safe from shark attacks?

Shark attacks remain extremely rare, but swimmers can still protect themselves by taking several precautions. Avoid the ocean during dawn and dusk, when sharks are most likely to be feeding, and don't swim near people fishing who may have bait in the water. Avoid wearing shiny jewelry or entering the water if you're actively bleeding. Always swim with a buddy and at guarded beaches, where lifeguards will be able to help you in the event of an emergency. 

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Chris Mench is an editor focusing on NYC News at Thrillist. You can follow him on Twitter for more of his work.