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Amidst an Uptick of Shark Sightings Near Beaches, Lifeguards are Increasing Safety Measures

By: Anya Li

In 2022 alone, there have been 20 shark attack bites in the US, and a dramatic increase in shark sightings. Because of this, lifeguards are now increasing patrols and putting new strategies in place, including introducing drones, jet skis and paddle boards, and online shark tracking.

Justine Anderson, a lifeguard supervisor, said that in the past, shark sightings have been immensely rare. However, there were daily sightings of sharks dangerously close to swimmers in swimming areas last summer along the coastline of New York.

“It’s become part of our daily routine,” Anderson said, “We’ll patrol throughout the day and respond immediately if we get a report of a shark sighting.” More shark patrols are monitoring the greater than 100 miles of shoreline of Long Island’s beaches.

This summer, a 10-foot mako shark was spotted at Point Lookout over Memorial Day. And just this week, authorities said a man swimming at Jones Beach may have been bitten by a shark. Now, lifesaving departments of Long Island are taking this shark situation more seriously.

On Friday, Nassau County executive Bruce Blakeman held a news conference to announce that the county police would be increasing patrols, both by boat and by helicopter, to do hourly runs over the coastline. Numerous other departments across the island have followed and begun putting new shark-monitoring strategies into place. Local police departments are also now tasked with shark patrol.

Nearly 20 lifeguards, park police and other beach staff members have recently been trained to operate a fleet of seven drones as part of a new aerial shark-monitoring program at Jones Beach and Robert Moses State Park.

“It’s like a new world we’re living in. In my 25 years as a lifeguard, we never had to do this,” said Cary Epstein, a veteran guard at Jones Beach, which, along with Robert Moses State Park, employs about 375 lifeguards.

Even so, many experts say that shark attacks are extremely rare. Hans Walters, a field scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium who has spent over a decade studying sharks in New York waters, says that the threat to people from these creatures is practically nonexistent and that the latest publicity over sharks near the beaches was “very overblown.”

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