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Most beaches to allow swimming, officials say, but eyes out for sharks 

Officials closed the water to swimming at Jones

Officials closed the water to swimming at Jones Beach Tuesday, but reopened it after a reported shark sighting could not be confirmed.   Credit: Jim Staubitser

Long Island officials said they plan to allow swimming at South Shore beaches Wednesday but will keep close watch after six reported shark sightings in the past two days. 

Officials received reports of three additional shark sightings Tuesday off Atlantic Beach, Point Lookout and Jones Beach. The sightings have limited water access on two of the hottest days of the year.

State park officials said they were unable to verify the Jones Beach sighting Tuesday and reopened the water to swimming after an hourlong closure.

Another sighting was reported off East Atlantic Beach on Tuesday afternoon, and a third was reported off Point Lookout, prompting Hempstead officials to close its beaches to swimming. 

On Monday, three shark sightings were reported in the waters off Lido Beach, Point Lookout and Long Beach, officials said. Town of Hempstead officials said they believed the shark spotted near Lido Beach was a bull shark, more dangerous than many sharks typically found in Long Island waters.

Nassau County police conducted aerial patrols of the water for the second day to search for sharks while the county limited and temporarily closed swimming off Nickerson Beach Tuesday afternoon. 

Long Beach, county and state park officials planned to let swimming resume Wednesday morning,

The Town of Hempstead will consult with neighboring officials and will decide by 10 a.m. "There could be some restrictions, but we're going to take it on an hour-by-hour basis," Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin said. "We'll see if there are any additional sightings and communicate with our colleagues on the South Shore."

At about 3 p.m. Tuesday, several swimmers said they saw a shark off Field 6 at Jones Beach, officials said. State Parks regional director George Gorman said lifeguards had seen several pods of dolphins and stingrays off Jones Beach but reopened the water after the shark sighting could not be confirmed.

After the report of the possible shark sighting off East Atlantic Beach, the town shoreline was closed in conjunction with state park officials at Jones Beach and Long Beach officials, Clavin said.

The area off Jones Beach where the first possible shark was spotted was about five miles from Hempstead beaches in Lido Beach West and Point Lookout.

“These bull sharks are dangerous and like to come to shallow areas,” Clavin said. “Lifeguards on boards and bay constables are on high alert. These bull sharks are aggressive and can do physical damage.”

Sharks may be in the region due to the warm water, upward of 70 degrees, and more smaller fish recently seen in the area, Clavin said. 

Clavin said a bull shark may have been spotted off Point Lookout and the sighting off Atlantic Beach led to a brief closure of the entire shoreline. 

The town had increased patrols Tuesday morning by bay constables and lifeguards on surfboards. Officials also went to docks to ask local fisherman to look for sharks. 

Long Beach lifeguards went on a personal watercraft patrol Tuesday morning but did not see any sharks, so they felt comfortable fully opening the water for swimming, city spokesman John McNally said. Long Beach lifeguards reopened beaches for swimming after a brief closure Tuesday afternoon. 

Hempstead chief lifeguards recently attended state training to spot and identify sharks, Clavin said. A 19-year-old lifeguard on a surfboard Monday initially spotted the bull shark in Lido Beach, which he described as 8 to 10 feet long. He was trained to differentiate the shark fins from those of dolphins.

“Although Great White Sharks are more widely known, the bull sharks are very dangerous,” Clavin said.

With John Valenti

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