Town of Hempstead beaches, Jones Beach closes to swimmers following shark sightings


Hempstead town officials closed all its beaches Wednesday afternoon after “numerous” sharks were spotted along the shoreline. Blacktip reef sharks were seen around 1 p.m. at Jones Beach State Park, Lido Beach and Long Beach, Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said, at a press conference.

The initial two sharks reportedly jumped out of the water roughly 200 yards from the Lido West shoreline, lifeguard Julia Burns said. Around the same time, at least two additional sharks were spotted at Jones and Long Beach.

“We have been so prepared for scenarios like this,” Burns said. “It’s really important to be prepared and remain calm. There’s nothing we like more than seeing everyone at the beach happy, but paramount to that, we want everyone who comes to the beach to leave safely.”

All beaches were immediately closed to swimmers out of an abundance of caution, Clavin said. The beaches reopened this late afternoon.

“We’re very appreciative of the residents’ understanding,” Clavin said. “They understand that this is safety precaution that we need to take,”

Blacktip reef sharks, which range from 4 to 8 feet long, are not native to the area. Officials are speculating that the species could be in the region due to the approaching hurricane season.

Wednesday’s sighting is just one in a slew of local shark sightings. On the morning of July 22, a fisherman captured a sandbar shark at Jones Beach near Field 2, New York State Parks regional director George Gorman said. And later that day, a lifeguard saw the fins of two sand tiger sharks.

Another shark was spotted on local shorelines last Saturday, and on Monday, a Jones Beach lifeguard was potentially bitten by a shark while in the water at Central Mall around 11 a.m., Gorman said.

By Tuesday, he said, the team had increased scanning procedures at Jones Beach. Lifeguards and state police were operating drones and helicopters when they spotted thousands of bluefish and bunker fish — two feeder fish for sharks — not far from the shoreline. These feeder fish tend to wade into shallow waters.

“We’ve implemented great measures to make sure that we keep all the swimmers as safe as we possibly can,” Gorman said.

State police will continue to monitor local waters, Gorman said. Meanwhile, Hempstead’s “shark patrol” team will scan local waters on jet skis and row boats.