NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Swimming is prohibited for a third day at several Long Island beaches after more sharks were spotted in the water just hours after local and county officials announced they would be stepping up patrols to keep swimmers safe along the South Shore.
On Wednesday morning, a Nassau County Police helicopter slowly flew above Nickerson Beach as part of the enhanced patrols that have been implemented along the shoreline to help alert beachgoers and swimmers to the presence of any sharks.
Two police choppers will make multiple passes throughout the day along the entire coastline.
“If anything is spotted coming too close to shore or displaying erratic or aggressive behavior, our pilots will immediately get that information to all area beaches and lifeguards, no matter what jurisdiction,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Wednesday.
Police will also intensify marine patrols in the water and lifeguards will keep an eye out for sharks from the beach.
This comes after several sightings of what were reported to be bull sharks on Monday closed Long Beach, Nickerson Beach, Civic Beach, Lido Beach, Lido West Beach, Town Park Point Lookout and Town Park at Sands.
There were even more sightings on Tuesday at Jones and Atlantic beaches, and just hours after Curran's announcement, more sharks were spotted Wednesday off Nickerson Beach and Point Lookout.
"A significant sized shark was spotted by TOH lifeguards in the water 25 yards from shore at Town Park Point Lookout. Due to this sighting, all swimming is prohibited at TOH patrolled beaches from Lido West to Town Park Point Lookout for the time being," the Town of Hempstead tweeted Wednesday afternoon.
Town of Hempstead Lifeguard Connor Byrne said he was standing on the sand at Atlantic Beach on Tuesday when he saw what he believed was a bull shark.
"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," Byrne said. "We all identified a fin and could tell that it was clearly a shark and was being aggressive. It was five feet directly off shore from the swimming area with people around so no one wanted to go back in the water."
"It was definitely scary," he added.
A shark expert from Gotham Whales said bull sharks are rare, but warmer, cleaner water has brought them to the Long Island area. Sting rays and dolphins have also been spotted in the warm water close to shore.
"We've seen sharks before out here in previous years, but I've never seen a shark so close to shore," Byrne said.
Earlier this week, Long Beach's Chief of Lifeguards Paul Gillespie said bull sharks can be 14-feet long and are dangerous to humans.
"They will attack you, they don't let anything get in their way. With thresher sharks basically they'll eat because they're hungry, but the bull sharks will attack you," Gillespie said.
So far Long Island has experienced double the shark sightings this year compared to last year.
Authorities are monitoring the situation and advise going into the water at only waist-deep for now, when swimming is allowed.
Curran says swimmers should stay close to the shore and swim in groups. She said beachgoers should especially avoid swimming alone at dawn and dusk, which is “prime food hunting time for sharks," and refrain from wearing shiny jewelry.
“If it’s glinting in the water, they can mistake that for the scales of a fish,” she said.
Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said shark attacks are rare, noting there have been 12 attacks in the water since 1837.
He urges beachgoers to use common sense.
“Stay close to the shoreline right now while it’s warm, and we’ll see how this all plays out," Ryder said.
No injuries have been reported on Long Island, but a New York City woman was killed in a rare shark attack off the coast of Maine on Monday.