SMITH POINT, N.Y. (PIX11) — Another shark attack was reported at Smith Point Beach Wednesday morning, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.
The beach, located on the south shore of Suffolk County, was closed to swimming. Bellone and other local officials addressed the situation Wednesday during a news conference.
A 41-year-old man surfing around 7:30 a.m. suffered a 4-inch gash to his leg, according to Bellone, citing first responders who treated the victim. The man was knocked off his board during the attack. He punched the shark and saw it circling back around toward him before a wave carried him and his board back to shore.
“That was the last contact” with the shark, Bellone said.
The victim walked onto the shore and sought care. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital for treatment.
The victim told officials he believed the shark was a sand tiger shark estimated at about 4 feet long. The attack happened while lifeguards were not on duty, and Bellone urged residents to only swim while it’s safe to do so.
After the attack, beach staff initiated heightened surveillance protocols and deployed drones over the ocean. If no further shark sightings are reported, the beach will reopen to swimming around 1 p.m., Bellone said.
It’s the second shark-related incident at Smith Point in just over a week. Swimming at the beach was temporarily suspended on July 3 after a shark-related incident involving a lifeguard, officials said.
The shark bit the lifeguard in the chest and hand during a training exercise at around 10:15 a.m. The lifeguard received stitches and was still recovering but expected to return to work at the beach this week, according to Bellone. The beach was reopened to swimming the following day.
“To have two of these incidents happen … is unprecedented. We have not seen this before,” Bellone said Wednesday during the briefing. “I think it is an indication, however, that what we’re looking at is something of a new normal in that these [sand] tiger sharks are just a little bit closer to shore than they’ve been. They’ve always been here. They’ve always been out there … but they’re closer to shore now.”
Another lifeguard in the Fire Island community of Ocean Beach was bitten by a shark. Ocean Beach Mayor James Mallott said the lifeguard was performing training about 150 to 200 yards offshore on Thursday morning when felt something bite him near his left foot.
Experts say Long Island’s shores are seeing more visits by sharks, and it’s likely that trend will continue. Cleaner oceans, warmer water temperatures, and a resurgence of bunker fish that sharks feed on are seen as factors.
Detection, from drones to helicopters, also has improved. Experts say the increase in numbers of sharks is a sign that conservation efforts have succeeded in helping restore ecological balance to the oceans.
PIX11’s Mira Wassef and The Associated Press contributed to this report.