WEST HAMPTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Swimming will be banned until Saturday in the water at Cupsogue Beach County Park on after sharks were spotted just off shore this week, Katie Fehlinger reports. County officials have, however, reopened Smith Point beach to swimmers.
“It’s awesome,” said beachgoer Lisa Scholl. “They’re wild and they’re going from one end to the other back and forth.”
About a half dozen sharks floating just feet away from the shoreline at Cupsogue Beach in West Bampton brought dozens of spectators, and people couldn’t get enough of the fear factor.
“I think people are waiting for something to happen, maybe for them to come out of the water and chop off their feet, I don’t know” joked beachgoer Valerie Schachner.
“It’s exciting right now, but I think we’d be more cautious when we come now. You know, about letting the kids in the water,” Scholl said.
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Since the sharks showed up, no one’s been allowed in the water even though officials said it’s unlikely the sharks were predatory. Chris Paparo of Atlantis Marine World in Riverhead says that, based on photos, this week’s visitors appear to be basking sharks.
They eat plankton and generally don’t harm humans. He says they typically appear off Long Island as summer approaches.
“I think it’s exciting enough just watching them. I don’t want to have to worry about dodging them,” said Schachner.
“They’re still sharks. I don’t know if I’d take a chance,” Scholl said.
The entertainment hasn’t been bad for beachside business.
“I don’t know whether the people are coming down for the sun or to see the sharks, but either way it should be a good day,” said Dawn Pedersen, manager of The Beach Hut.
Even though sharks aren’t uncommon off Long Island, locals said shark sightings were rare.
“Never in my lifetime,” said Steve Schachner of Melville. “I’ve never seen a shark other than an aquarium.”
“I’m here year round and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said beachgoer Arnold Perlman.
County officials said sharks have also been sighted on beaches east and west of Cupsogue, including Smith Point County Beach, which has also been closed for swimming.
Although the sharks’ species was still unknown, marine biologists said their best guess was that they’re basking sharks, which are not dangerous to humans.
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