As temperatures in Queens climbed into the 90s, Rockaway Beach was closed on Tuesday afternoon for swimming because of shark sightings, officials said, leaving only the boardwalk open for beachgoers on the hot day.
Although shark sightings and incidents have led to beach closures in the past, they’re not common, said Janet Fash, who has worked as a chief lifeguard at Rockaway Beach for about 31 years. She said she had personally noticed more sightings of “life that lives in the sea” at New York’s beaches in recent years.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of dolphins and we’ve seen whales and we’ve seen stingrays,” Ms. Fash said. “You see a lot more, and the water is now like 73 degrees, so warm water brings the sharks in as well.”
If a beach is closed because of a shark, it most likely means the sighting was close to shore and the shark was swimming in shallow water, Ms. Fash said.
Just over the past week, there have been several shark sightings at beaches in Long Island, with one on Sunday at Lindo Beach, PIX11 reported. There were also two reported shark attacks 11 hours apart on Wednesday, bringing the total number of shark encounters on Long Island to five in two weeks, according to The Long Island Press.
Earlier this month, a man may have been bitten by a shark while swimming at Jones Beach, also on Long Island, and officials stepped up patrols in response.
Shark patrols along Long Island’s coast also increased last year after sharks were seen more frequently feeding on fish close to swimmers. But experts have said that there isn’t real evidence that shark populations have increased and that the dangers posed by sharks are minimal.
Because of the recent sightings, Gov. Kathy Hochul directed an increase in patrols and surveillance on Monday along Long Island State Park beaches.