Even with no confirmed shark sightings on Long Island beaches so far this summer, the safety of bathers remains a top priority. NewsdayTV's Drew Scott reports. Credit: Newsday/Kendall Rodriguez; file footage; surfertoday.com

By this weekend last year, reports of at least five shark bites in Long Island waters had sent beachgoers into a frenzy.

Not so in 2024, when so far the grand total of both shark attacks and shark sightings at Long Island state beaches is zero.

“Knock on wood,” said George Gorman, Long Island regional director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. State lifeguards have been looking, he said, launching three-times daily surveillance drone flights from Jones Beach and other busy ocean beaches, as well as observing from surf boats and water scooters.

“What we have seen are stingrays, some dolphins,” he said. What they haven’t seen, at least in the quantities observed in previous seasons, are the schools of menhaden and other baitfish that are thought to have attracted sharks, though they don’t know why.

Cary Epstein, a Jones Beach lifeguard and drone supervisor who helped establish Parks’ drone program, said most shark sightings at state beaches happened when the sharks were feeding. “You’d be looking down from the eye in the sky and you’d see hundreds or thousands of these fish. It was like a giant dark shadow from a cloud.” When a shark approached the school, “it was like the parting of the Red Sea. … You’d think it would be more aggressive looking, but the shark would swim right through it, at a slow pace, and grab a few.”

Humans are not part of a shark’s natural diet and the chance of getting bitten by one is very small. According to the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum, it is lower than getting struck by lightning and lower than getting bitten by a dog or another person. Swimmers can also take precautions, like not swimming alone or in murky water, to improve their safety, Epstein said.

Still, interviews Friday at Jones Beach suggested ambivalence among the oceangoing public. “I feel like it's too dangerous,” said Sophia Mbaye, 13, of Rego Park, who was reluctant to swim. “I don’t want to get bit.” Maureen Kroning, 62, of Irvington, getting ready for a day in the water with her two grandchildren, said she had other concerns, like rip currents. “We definitely don't like to go too far out to where we're not in view of the lifeguard," Kroning said. “If we could stand, it's perfect.”

Shark experts said it was unclear why there might be five bites by this time one year and none the next.

“Marine ecosystems are incredibly complex,” Samantha Rosen, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, wrote in an email. “Changes in water temperature, ocean currents, primary productivity, prey species distributions, as well as changes in fishing mortality of both prey species and sharks, all impact when and where sharks can be observed in New York waters.”

There is also the problem of sample size, said Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida program, which is the repository for International Shark Attack File. The Shark Attack File, which bills itself as the world’s only comprehensive file of shark attacks, includes just 24 unprovoked shark attacks in New York since 1837 in the context of untold millions of beach visits.

Human-shark interaction is “a chaotic function where a small incident can interact with other incidents in ways that are hard to predict,” Naylor said. “You can’t predict shark bites in a very local and fine-scale temporal way.”

Michael Frisk, a professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences who researches population dynamics, ecology and life history evolution in fishes, said his field crew — the people who catch and tag sharks for tracking — had observed bait schools farther offshore than in the past, which could pull the sharks farther offshore too.

But understanding those fishes’ movements is difficult. “We’re looking into interactions of oceanography of the near-shore area, of the phytoplankton and zooplankton,” Frisk said, referring to the tiny floating plants and animals at the base of the marine food chain. They are food for small fish, which are food for sharks, but there are many oceanographic factors, including water temperature and currents, that could explain their distribution.

A commercial fisherman, Robert Aaronson, captain of the OH Brother, a Montauk charter, said he had seen abundant shark stock offshore this year. “They’ve been living out here for millions of years,” he said. "They absolutely go up and down Long Island."

He agreed they were likely following baitfish but said trying to discern patterns to fishes’ movement was a fool’s errand.

“It’s fish, they have tails,” he said. “I couldn’t make an opinion.”

By this weekend last year, reports of at least five shark bites in Long Island waters had sent beachgoers into a frenzy.

Not so in 2024, when so far the grand total of both shark attacks and shark sightings at Long Island state beaches is zero.

“Knock on wood,” said George Gorman, Long Island regional director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. State lifeguards have been looking, he said, launching three-times daily surveillance drone flights from Jones Beach and other busy ocean beaches, as well as observing from surf boats and water scooters.

“What we have seen are stingrays, some dolphins,” he said. What they haven’t seen, at least in the quantities observed in previous seasons, are the schools of menhaden and other baitfish that are thought to have attracted sharks, though they don’t know why.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • In contrast to last year at this time, there have been no shark sightings yet this year at Long Island state beaches, officials said.
  • About 10 shark species encountered by humans migrate to Long Island waters around Memorial Day, staying for four or five months before swimming south.
  • Your chance of getting bitten by a shark is small and there are steps you can take to ensure safety, like swimming with a partner and avoiding murky water.

Cary Epstein, a Jones Beach lifeguard and drone supervisor who helped establish Parks’ drone program, said most shark sightings at state beaches happened when the sharks were feeding. “You’d be looking down from the eye in the sky and you’d see hundreds or thousands of these fish. It was like a giant dark shadow from a cloud.” When a shark approached the school, “it was like the parting of the Red Sea. … You’d think it would be more aggressive looking, but the shark would swim right through it, at a slow pace, and grab a few.”

Humans are not part of a shark’s natural diet and the chance of getting bitten by one is very small. According to the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum, it is lower than getting struck by lightning and lower than getting bitten by a dog or another person. Swimmers can also take precautions, like not swimming alone or in murky water, to improve their safety, Epstein said.

Still, interviews Friday at Jones Beach suggested ambivalence among the oceangoing public. “I feel like it's too dangerous,” said Sophia Mbaye, 13, of Rego Park, who was reluctant to swim. “I don’t want to get bit.” Maureen Kroning, 62, of Irvington, getting ready for a day in the water with her two grandchildren, said she had other concerns, like rip currents. “We definitely don't like to go too far out to where we're not in view of the lifeguard," Kroning said. “If we could stand, it's perfect.”

Shark experts said it was unclear why there might be five bites by this time one year and none the next.

“Marine ecosystems are incredibly complex,” Samantha Rosen, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, wrote in an email. “Changes in water temperature, ocean currents, primary productivity, prey species distributions, as well as changes in fishing mortality of both prey species and sharks, all impact when and where sharks can be observed in New York waters.”

There is also the problem of sample size, said Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida program, which is the repository for International Shark Attack File. The Shark Attack File, which bills itself as the world’s only comprehensive file of shark attacks, includes just 24 unprovoked shark attacks in New York since 1837 in the context of untold millions of beach visits.

Human-shark interaction is “a chaotic function where a small incident can interact with other incidents in ways that are hard to predict,” Naylor said. “You can’t predict shark bites in a very local and fine-scale temporal way.”

Michael Frisk, a professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences who researches population dynamics, ecology and life history evolution in fishes, said his field crew — the people who catch and tag sharks for tracking — had observed bait schools farther offshore than in the past, which could pull the sharks farther offshore too.

But understanding those fishes’ movements is difficult. “We’re looking into interactions of oceanography of the near-shore area, of the phytoplankton and zooplankton,” Frisk said, referring to the tiny floating plants and animals at the base of the marine food chain. They are food for small fish, which are food for sharks, but there are many oceanographic factors, including water temperature and currents, that could explain their distribution.

A commercial fisherman, Robert Aaronson, captain of the OH Brother, a Montauk charter, said he had seen abundant shark stock offshore this year. “They’ve been living out here for millions of years,” he said. "They absolutely go up and down Long Island."

He agreed they were likely following baitfish but said trying to discern patterns to fishes’ movement was a fool’s errand.

“It’s fish, they have tails,” he said. “I couldn’t make an opinion.”

Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV Credit: Newsday

Summer tourism ... Shark sightings on LI . . . Dino-Mite Vintage . . . What's Up on Long Island . . . Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV

Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV Credit: Newsday

Summer tourism ... Shark sightings on LI . . . Dino-Mite Vintage . . . What's Up on Long Island . . . Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV

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