There have been at least nine sightings in the waters off Nassau County since Monday, after sharks were spotted off the coast of Nickerson Beach, off Point Lookout, and off Tobay Beach in Oyster Bay on Wednesday.
"It's a very difficult time down here," Town of Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin said. "It's a combination of factors, as I stressed to everybody. We have a pandemic, we have a 50% capacity at the beaches, we have the hottest days of the summer, and we have had shark sightings that are clear cut."
Three more shark sightings were reported Tuesday, including bull sharks spotted off Atlantic Beach and Point Lookout by lifeguards.
"Yesterday at approximately 3:15 p.m., we witnessed a big shark breach the surface about five feet into the swimming area, directly off shore in front of the lifeguard chair," East Atlantic Beach lifeguard Connor Byrne said. "The lifeguards immediately responded, called all the patrons out of the water. And at that time, we called the ocean base down at the Town of Hempstead to alert them of the sighting that we saw. Immediately afterwards, patrons did not want to go back into the water. I have to thank the Town of Hempstead for teaching all of us how to identify sharks and how to react quickly and most effectively."
Watch: Lifeguard describes shark sighting
Hempstead kept their beaches closed to swimming for the day following the sightings.
"We saw a large dark gray and white object on the surface of the water making a huge splash that no other fish could make, and it was sitting on the surface of the water for probably about 30 seconds thrashing around maybe going after a fish," Byrne said. "At that point, several of the patrons, most of the lifeguards could all identify the fin and tell that it was clearly a shark and was being aggressive. Once again, it was five feet directly offshore from the swimming area with people around, so no one wanted to go back in the water."
Nassau County announced it will have "enhanced helicopter patrols" over the shoreline as well as intensified marine ocean patrols in order to help alert beachgoers and swimmers of the presence of sharks.
"We've seen sharks before out here in previous years, but I've never seen a shark so close to shore," Byrne said. "The depth was probably only about knee to waste deep, so it was definitely scary...People were screaming and yelling a little bit, but the lifeguards did a great job of getting everyone out and making sure everyone was safe."
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With that said, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said it's possible that sharks may not be there at the exact point when they are looking, so swimmers should always listen to the lifeguards.
"The lifeguards between the Town of Hempstead, the county, and the state are experts at what they do," he said. "They are professionals. If they tell get out of the water, get out of the water, don't hesitate."
Even when open, swimming is limited to waist level at some of Nassau's South Shore beaches, including Hempstead's beaches, which opened at 10 a.m. Jones Beach had fully reopened to swimming, but lifeguards remain on high alert.
"I just want residents to know a bull shark is an incredibly dangerous creature," Clavin said. "People always hear about the great white sharks, well a bull shark is even more dangerous really to the swimmers in the South Shore. Why? These predators like to go to the shallower areas. They like to be closer to the coastline, where the swimmers are."
Meanwhile, swimmers spotted a shark off Field 6 at Jones Beach around 3 p.m. Tuesday, but it could not be confirmed by lifeguards and the water was reopened an hour later.
Long Beach also closed their beaches to swimming at that time, but they reopened after about an hour after lifeguards on personal watercraft also did not see any sharks.
"We want you to enjoy yourselves," Clavin said. "We know this is a very hot period, but we want you to be safe...and if we see or hear of any other sightings, we will take the precautions necessary."
The Tuesday sightings came one day after three shark sightings Monday afternoon, with the first being a Town of Hempstead lifeguard who reported seeing a significant sized shark near a lifeguard on a surfboard.
They weren't sure of the exact size, but the shark was just eight to 10 feet away from the shore.
Authorities released a photo of a sea ray that washed up with enormous bite marks.
"By the shape of the head, shape of dorsal fin, fitness of the body, we determined it as a bull shark," Chief Town Lifeguard Mike Romano said.
The water temperature is now close to 80 degrees, and experts believe sharks are moving closer to shore in search of food.
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There have been at least 26 shark sightings in New York in the past 12 months.
With more people boating during the pandemic, the thinking is that's why there's been more reported sightings, while the actual number of sharks in the water is likely similar to previous years.
Lifeguards will continue to monitor the situation and determine when it is once again safe for swimming to resume.
Fortunately, no one was injured by the sharks in the New York area.
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