An Arizona man was bitten by a shark on Wednesday July 13. This incident occurred for the second time that day at Seaview Beach in the Ocean Beach area of Fire Island, the first being an attack on a 47-year-old surfer in the Morning. The second shark attack, timed at 6 p.m., was another in a string of recent shark attacks that Long Island had witnessed.
Authorities say the shark attacked the 49-year-old as he stood waist-deep in water. The shark bit him on the left wrist and buttocks. According to Ocean Beach Fire Department Chief Ian Levin, the man has no sensation in his fingers and his movement is limited after the incident.
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Nevertheless, the person was able to get out of the water and was later transported to Stony Brook University Hospital by a Suffolk County authorities helicopter. Police say the man is expected to survive as his injuries are not life threatening. Suffolk County officials say the incident happened less than 12 hours after a surfer was attacked by a “sand tiger shark” near Smith Point Beach around 7:45 a.m.
The first “tiger shark” incident
Investigators say surfer Shawn Donnely was bitten by what he believed to be a sand tiger shark. This incident happened in the water east of Smith Point County Park’s main beach on July 13. The 47-year-old suffered a four-inch gash in his thigh. Around 7 a.m., Donnely claimed the shark bit him and knocked him off his board. He then claimed that he continually kicked the shark as it continued to circle it until a wave helped carry it to safety and onto dry land. In a statement, Donnely said: “It hit my left calf and knocked me off my board…when I was falling off my board I saw the fin and its back.”
I just had to take a second. I looked – my arms were there, my legs were there, I was like ‘it’s okay’… I put my board between me and her, she went under me, I slapped her and she was gone. I went straight to the beach and surfed straight on a wave,” he added.
Later that day, Donnely was taken to hospital, but the medical facility did not release a statement on his condition. The man was shaken up a bit, according to Suffolk’s chief lifeguard, but is expected to recover. Donnely said he had surfed the area all his life and this was the first time he had seen a shark.
According to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Long Island needs to get used to the “new normal” of shark attacks. “I think that’s an indication that what we’re looking at is something of a new normal in that the sharks…are closer to shore than they’ve been,” Bellone said. After the incident, Smith Point Beach was closed to all swimming activity for several hours. Park rangers, lifeguards and deployed drones searched the area and made sure there were no signs of shark activity before the beach reopened around 1:30 p.m.
According to Newsday, shark attacks in the area were extremely rare in the past. In the previous century, attacks were rounding up to an average of one reported every 10 years. Records from the Florida Museum of Natural History indicate that there were 47 unprovoked shark bites reported in the United States in 2021, a 42% increase from the 33 reported in 2020.
June and July saw a series of attacks
Days before the July 13 incidents, a Smith Point lifeguard was bitten in the chest while acting as a casualty during training. Authorities say he tried to run over the 4-5ft long shark and injured his hand. The parks commissioner had said it was the first known shark attack at Smith Point since the beach opened in 1959. The rescuer needed multiple sutures but appeared to be otherwise in good health.
A lifeguard on Ocean Beach at Fire Island was also attacked by a shark a few days later on Thursday, which he survived. On the penultimate day of June at Jones Beach there may have been another shark bite. Wednesday’s incidents brought the total number of shark bites on Long Island to four in as many weeks.
Two beaches in Suffolk County temporarily banned water activities earlier this month due to “unsafe marine behaviour”. One of these beaches was Smith Point. The second beach that was closed was Cupsogue. Both beaches were then restored in time for the July 4 holiday.
“Shark attacks may not be a bad thing”
The number of shark sightings off Long Island is on the rise. This trend is certain to continue, but could be a good thing, experts say. Scientists say this increased shark activity shows that conservation efforts have helped clean up local waters. There’s also an abundance of shark food with the resurgence of bunker fish, officially called Atlantic menhaden, and are easy to spot in the clean waters. Additionally, warming oceans have drawn sharks to more northern locations. However, experts fear that more shark-human encounters could turn people against sharks, even though they are vital to the marine ecosystem. Scientists pointed to improved drones and the use of helicopters to detect shark activity and warn people. They also said that social media makes it easier to share information and warnings.
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The director of the Stony Brook University Marine Science Center told Newsday: “There are a lot more sharks than 10 or 15 years ago. We’re spotting sharks, whales and dolphins here. In the 1960s, we had no sharks, whales, or dolphins.”