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Officials in Nassau County close South Shore beaches after more shark sightings

Nassau Police have stepped up patrols – on the water and in the sky – as shark sightings continued Wednesday. Cecilia Dowd has the story. Credit: Newsday / Cecilia Dowd; Howard Schnapp; Town of Hempstead lifeguards; File footage; Photo Credit: Universal Images Group via Getty

For a third straight day, officials shut down South Shore beaches Wednesday after another shark was spotted off Nickerson Beach and one was seen later at Point Lookout, prompting closures from there to Long Beach. 

Since Monday, lifeguards have reported eight shark sightings off East Atlantic Beach, Point Lookout and Long Beach. A shark was also spotted off Jones Beach, but officials could not confirm that it was separate from a pod of dolphins.  

In the Town of Oyster Bay, spokesman Brian Nevin confirmed that a lifeguard spotted a shark Wedensday at Tobay Beach in Massapequa, near the border of their beach with Suffolk County.

Just before 3 p.m. in Point Lookout, Hempstead Town senior lifeguard Jonathan Trencheny, 24, said he spotted an 8- to 10-foot shark about 20 feet offshore at the end of the jetty at Point Lookout Town Park. He said he blew his whistle and waved everyone out of the water.

“It was pretty lengthy and wide swimming in the water,” Trencheny said. “You could see it pretty clearly. They’re more afraid of you than you are of them.”

Another Hempstead Town lifeguard spotted a 6-foot shark at 1 p.m. Wednesday about 20 yards off Nickerson Beach. It was seen in about chest-deep water with a raised dorsal fin. Several swimmers also spotted the shark and ran out of the water.

Ethan Grassini, 18, said he saw the shark and blew his whistle to order swimmers out of the water. Swimming was closed for the rest of the day except for knee-deep wading.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Wednesday that she has ordered Nassau County police to conduct enhanced air and marine patrols along the shoreline.

“Our enhanced helicopter patrols along the coast will keep an eye on anything lurking in the water,” Curran said.

Nassau County police will use two already active helicopters to conduct multiple passes along the coastline “to look for anything coming too close to shore or erratic behavior,” the county executive added. A pair of marine bureau boats will watch for waves and choppy water on the ocean to augment the efforts of lifeguards.

The types of sharks spotted have not been confirmed, but some lifeguards believe the sightings have been bull sharks — also known as blunt-nosed sharks — that frequent warm, shallow water. Officials also based that description on a stingray found with a similar bite pattern.

“These are incredibly dangerous creatures,” said Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin. “They are even more dangerous to swimmers on the South Shore. These predators like shallow water and coastline where swimmers are.”

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said there have only been about a dozen shark attacks off Long Island in nearly 200 years.

“That’s not a lot, but only one causes panic,” Ryder said. “If lifeguards tell you to get out of the water, don’t hesitate, get out of the water.”

East Atlantic Beach lieutenant lifeguard Connor Byrne, 22, said he saw a shark breach the water Tuesday off East Atlantic Beach, about 5 yards offshore.

“It was a large, dark gray fish that made a huge splash that no other fish could make,” Byrne said., adding that lifeguards told all swimmers to get out of the water and that people started screaming and yelling.

Marine expert Paul Seiswerda, who is also director of the group Gotham Whale, said biologists have been getting more than double the reports of different sharks off the coast of Long Island and New York harbor, including hammerheads, thrasher and sand tiger sharks. He said the reported sightings of bull sharks would be extremely rare for this region since they normally prefer tropical water. 

“A lot of sharks look alike,” Seiswerda said. “We have southern visitors on occasion come in warmer waters. The animals here are feeding on fish ... most of the time it’s not a threat.” 

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