Like a scene from our worst nightmares, swimmers fled the shark-infested waters of a Long Island beach this past Sunday.
This terrifying event took place around 2 p.m. at Davis Park, a beach town on Fire Island.
Lifeguards spotted over 20 sharks following a large school of Menhaden baitfish—and quickly told the swimmers to get out of the water. They then closed the beach for about an hour to allow the animals to clear the area. Luckily, no one was injured.
Menhaden baitfish, which are commonly called mossbunker and bunker fish, often swarm shorelines. The schools of fish don’t only attract sharks. They also draw other predators, such as striped bass, stingrays, and humpback whales to beaches and shorelines.
It also appears that swimmers may be getting used to sharks interrupting their vacations. This past Thursday, lifeguards cleared swimmers from three separate Long Island beaches because of another shark sighting. Thursday’s shark was the 20th confirmed sighting of the 2021 season. Nassau County officials say shark sightings have tripled since this time last year.
So why are we seeing so many sharks on the East Coast this year? With water temperatures and seal populations rising, sharks are becoming more common in the area. And great whites have been making a particularly big comeback because officials placed them on the federal protection list in the ’90s.
In June of this year, onlookers spotted four great whites hunting off the coast of Long Island and New Jersey. However, even though the species has been making a clear comeback, scientists are unaware if they have made a full recovery.
Shark Attacks in 2021
As of 2020, shark attacks had decreased for three consecutive years. But beachgoers all over the country come face-to-face with these deadly fish often enough to keep social media and news channels buzzing.
Just last month, two shark attacks on the Gulf Coast made headlines. Atsuhu Yamada, a Georgia surf instructor, was bitten in the leg while sitting on his surfboard. He was teaching a group of children and encountered the shark after helping a student get back to shore. He considered himself lucky because no children were injured, and he only suffered several large gashes.
On July 27th, a Hilton Head Island lifeguard suffered a bite to his upper body. He is currently in stable condition.
And earlier this month, a 12-year-old girl received 42 stitches while visiting Ocean City, MD. The Plains Township, PA, native was wading in knee-deep water at the time. However, she is healthy and in good spirits. She told reporters that the attack gives her a good story.
We shouldn’t abandon the beaches just yet though. It is extremely rare to be a shark attacks victim. A person’s chances of suffering from an attack are about 1 in 3.75 million. So, let these stories act as cautionary tales, and be aware of your surroundings. But keep enjoying the sandy beaches during your summer season.