Nassau County beaches will fly shark warning flag

A new purple flag with a white silhouette of a shark will fly at Nassau County beaches for 24 hours after a shark sighting.

"Most of the sharks that we have been able to identify so far this year have been common sand sharks or thresher sharks, which are not known to attack humans," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. 

Regardless of the species, officials believe it's important to make beachgoers aware of marine life close to the shore especially after a record 26 shark sightings so far this year.

Lifeguards have spotted sharks along Long Island's South Shore beaches including Jones, Lido, Long, and Nickerson. In July, a lifeguard at Jones Beach reported possibly being bitten by a shark.

Aerial and land patrols carefully canvass the area to keep swimmers safe.

"Our goal of course is not to scare people," Curran said. "But we do have an obligation to warn our residents and our visitors how to avoid danger."

Between 1970 and 1979 there were 157 shark bites recorded around the world, according to National Geographic. That number has jumped to 800 between 2010 and 2019.

Chris Fischer, the founder of OCEARCH, said that while the concept of sharks in the ocean is nothing new, more of them indicates healthier waters.

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"Whether you see one or not, we're all swimming with them all of the time," he said. "I think in the past we were living in a depleted ocean and now that it's returning to abundance, people need to know the environment they're going in."

The flag warning system has already been adopted in parts of Massachusetts and Maine.

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