Long Island authorities said Friday they are investigating a possible shark attack on a swimmer, just as the Fourth of July holiday weekend begins to get into full swing.
The 57-year-old swimmer suffered some type of laceration to his foot while swimming in the ocean at Jones Beach in Wantagh on Thursday afternoon, Nassau County police said.
Doctors responded and identified the nature of the injury as a possible shark bite.
Nassau County Police will increase patrols at all county beaches over the long holiday weekend as a precaution, officials said.
No update on the swimmer’s condition was provided on Friday.
The concept of the great white shark as a killing machine for unsuspecting beachgoers became established in mainstream culture with movies like 1975’s Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the 1974 novel by Peter Benchley.
However, the scientific consensus is that sharks are intelligent hunters, and on the rare occasions that a great white shark attacks a human, the bite may be the result of mistaken identity, according to research published last year.
The study by Australian scientists at Macquarie University suggests the predator may not be able to visually distinguish surfers and swimmers on the surface of the water from its natural prey, such as seals and schools of fish.
The research supported the theory that great whites do not actively seek out humans as prey. White sharks are thought to be more successful at hunting prey at the surface of the water. Sharks are also believed to be colorblind or have a limited ability to perceive colors at best.
As part of the study, the researchers estimated the visual acuity of white sharks based on the structure of their retinas. They specifically targeted juvenile great whites, which are responsible for a large proportion of attacks on humans.
Juveniles may have poorer eyesight than adult sharks, as well as greater overlap in habitat with humans.
More and more people understand that sharks are a valuable part of the ocean environment and must be protected. Fisheries management plans have been developed in many areas, but similar action is needed in many other regions. Certain species, such as the great white shark, sand tiger, whale, and basking shark, have received special government protection in some countries.
A better understanding of why sharks bite humans would help develop strategies to mitigate unfortunate encounters.
THE SHARKS MOST LIKELY TO BITE HUMANS
Of the 375 shark species that have been identified, only a dozen are considered particularly dangerous, Nat Geo reports.
The three most dangerous sharks (meaning they attack the most humans) are the great white shark, the tiger shark and the bull shark.
Great white sharks live in all of the world’s temperate ocean waters, including the East Coast of the United States.
Also, great white sharks have been spotted specifically in waters around New York City, according to marine biologists.
A recent study by Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute confirmed that baby white sharks move in seasonal migrations off the coast of New York. In fact, scientists believe that the New York Bight from Cape May Inlet in New Jersey to Montauk Point on Long Island serves as an important “nursery” for juvenile great white sharks.
PREVENT A SHARK FROM CONFUSING YOU FOR ITS PREY
Now that sharks are known to lack visual acuity, beachgoers can lessen the small chance of being bitten by a shark. The Florida Museum makes the following recommendations:
- Always swim in a group. Sharks often bite solitary individuals.
- Don’t go too far from the coast.
- Avoid water at night, at dawn or dusk. Many sharks are most active during these times.
- Do not go into the water if it bleeds. Sharks can smell and taste blood, and trace it back to its source.
- Don’t wear shiny jewelry. The reflected light looks like fish scales.
- Do not enter water containing sewage. The sewage attracts bait fish, which in turn attract sharks.
- Avoid fishing waters and those with many baitfish. Diving seabirds are good indicators of such activities.
- Do not enter the water if sharks are present.
- Avoid an uneven tan and bright colored clothing. Sharks see contrast particularly well, so be very careful when the waters are murky.
- Don’t splash too much. Also, keep pets out of the water. Erratic movements can attract sharks.
- Be careful near sandbanks or steep cliffs. These are the favorite places of sharks.
- Don’t try to touch a shark if you see one!
- If you’re bitten by a shark, the general rule of thumb is “Do whatever it takes to escape!” Some people have successfully chosen to be aggressive, others passive. Some screamed underwater, others made bubbles.
TYPES OF SHARK BITES
Provoked bites are caused by humans touching sharks. There have been a number of incidents recently involving divers who were bitten after grabbing or feeding a shark underwater, notes the Florida Museum.
Unprovoked bites occur when sharks make first contact. This can take three forms.
HIT AND RUN BITES. They occur near beaches, where sharks try to make a living by catching fish. In rough surf, strong currents, and murky water, a shark can confuse the movements of humans, usually on the surface, with those of its normal food, fish. The shark makes a grab, releases it, and immediately leaves the area. They often bite their legs or feet; injuries are usually minor and fatalities are rare.
STEALTH BITES. They take place in deeper water. The victim does not see the shark before the encounter. The result can be serious injury or death, especially if the shark continues to attack.
HIT AND BITE. It occurs when the shark circles and hits the victim with its head or body before biting. As in the sneak bite, the shark can attack repeatedly, causing serious injury or death.
HOW MANY SHARK ATTACKS HAVE BEEN RECORDED ON THE BEACHES OF NEW YORK?
Shark attacks on humans are extremely rare in the waters off Fire Island, east of New York City, or anywhere else in New York State. In fact, there are only 10 documented cases of shark bites in humans on New York beaches. The last one occurred in 1948.
In the summer of 2018, two possible shark attacks were reported off the coast of Fire Island, both by tiger sharks.
AND ON THE BEACHES OF NEW JERSEY?
Shark attacks are equally rare there, according to recent statistics, but there was a time when sharks had more frequent encounters with beachgoers. The 1916 Jersey Shore Shark Attacks took place between July 1 and 12, 1916, leaving four dead and one injured. It’s unclear which species of shark was responsible for the chaos, but it’s thought it may have been a great white shark and a bull shark.
The United States has an average of 16 shark attacks each year and less than one shark attack death every two years, according to National Geographic, which notes that lightning kills at least 41 people a year off the country’s coasts.
RECORD OF SHARK ATTACKS IN NEW YORK
|DATE||PLACE||EXERCISE||TYPE OF INCIDENT||FATAL OR NON-FATAL||INCIDENT DETAILS|
|January 1, 1642||Between Manhattan and the Bronx||Swimming||unprovoked||Mortal||Details|
|August 1, 1860||brooklyn||Swimming||unprovoked||not deadly||Details|
|August 12, 1864||mahattan||Swimming||unprovoked||not deadly||Details|
|September 2, 1865||Greenport Sound, Long Island||Swimming||unprovoked||not deadly||Details|
|July 15, 1874||Coney Island||splashing around||unprovoked||not deadly||Details|
|August 8, 1878||brooklyn||Swimming||unprovoked||Mortal||Details|
|August 9, 1878||East River||Swimming||unprovoked||Mortal||Details|
|August 21, 1894||Woolsey’s Point, East River||Swimming||unprovoked||not deadly||Details|
|August 22, 1898||Prince’s Bay, Staten Island||Swimming||unprovoked||not deadly||Details|
|July 24, 1909||rock away||He fell overboard while fishing for sharks.||unprovoked||not deadly||Details|
|July 13, 1916||Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn||Swimming||unprovoked||not deadly||Details|
|June 25, 1950||Beach 103rd Street, Rockaway||Swimming||unprovoked||not deadly||Details|
|September 3, 1953||Rockaway Beach||surf fishing||unprovoked||not deadly||Details|
SOURCE: Shark Attack Data / http://www.sharkattackdata.com/place/united_states_of_america/new_york.