New York shark attacks on the rise

Officials use drones to scour shallow waters for possible shark threats

Drones used to spot sharks near beaches

Drones used to spot sharks near beaches
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A spate of shark attacks off the coast of New York state has prompted authorities to use drones to scan the ocean for any creatures that might pose a risk to swimmers.

This week, five people reported being bitten by sharks at some of New York's most popular beaches, leading to heightened surveillance of the area's waters.

Research from the Atlantic Shark Institute shows that more people have been attacked in New York state during the past two years than at any time over the past 175 years. None of the injuries were life-threatening.

Florida is usually the country's leader for shark bites. There were 16 last year, which was twice as many as runner-up New York.

A video on Monday showed panicked beachgoers yelling “Get out of the water!” as a large shark could be seen swimming through the shallows off Navarre Beach in Florida.

"Get out of the water" was also a famous line from Stephen Spielberg's 1975 classic Jaws, which was set in the fictional New England community of Amity Island.

Off the coast of Long Island, a popular summer destination for New Yorkers wanting to escape the city, drones buzz overhead as officials try to spot sharks.

The sighting of a three-metre shark on Thursday prompted officials to keep people out of the water at Robert Moses State Park, the same Long Island beach that delayed its opening on July 4 after a drone spotted a group of 50 sand sharks off the coast.

“We are now more vigilant than ever,” said George Gorman, the state's park director in Long Island. “We have drones in the sky that watch over the waters. We have lifeguards on WaveRunners that watch over the waters.”

Just a few years ago, encounters with sharks were rare. But more recently, reports of sharks biting people have increased. Last year, eight people reported being bitten by sharks while swimming in the shallows off Long Island's beaches.

“This year, we’ve already had five bites,” Mr Gorman told the Associated Press, “and the season has kind of just begun.”

Even if the injuries have not been serious, he and others are concerned by the increase in shark sightings and encounters.

An increase in shark sightings might suggest a healthier ecosystem. Cleaner waters allow the small fish that sharks feed on to flourish.

Cary Epstein, a lifeguard supervisor who pilots drones at Jones Beach, said the tiny battery-powered aircraft make three sweeps each day: once before opening, then sometime midday and a final round before the end of the day.

“Despite the nervousness over what’s going on right now in New York, people swim in the ocean every day, and they have for centuries,” he told AP. “But we do have to remember that we are cohabitating, and this is their house.”

Updated: July 07, 2023, 3:48 PM