Experts Say Shark Incidents Are 'Incredibly Rare,' 'Mistaken Identity'

OYSTER BAY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The recent increase in shark sightings has prompted heavier monitoring up and down Long Island beaches.

A green flag billowing in the ocean breeze signals safety from any potential apex predators under the surface.

“It’s like riding a bicycle on a busy road — there’s always a danger to it, but if you follow the safety protocols, you’re going to get home OK,” Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joe Salidino said.

Shark patrols have increased, including helicopters making multiple passes up and down the beach along with lifeguards looking for fins in the water.

RELATED STORY: Hempstead Launches ‘Shark Patrol’ After Multiple Shark Sightings Along Long Island’s South Shore

Sharks have always come to our beaches. Their arrival is inspired by water temperatures.

“Temperature is a big driver, it triggers their migrations, so it’s possible that animals are moving earlier in the spring and possibly staying later in the fall,” said Dr. Michael Frisk, of Stony Brook University.

Marine biologists are tagging and tracking sharks to identify their movements and eating habits. While sharks make for great movie villains, in reality, they just want to eat fish.

“Shark incidents are very, very rare, incredibly rare, and it’s mistaken identity,” Dr. Oliver Shipley, of Stony Brook University, told CBS2’s Steve Overmyer.

“So they don’t have a taste for human blood?” Overmyer asked.

“They do not have a taste for human blood. Human blood has a different kind of protein content relative to fish blood,” Shipley said.

RELATED STORY: Red Flag Warning After Fishermen Catch Shark Off Town Of Hempstead

If you encounter a shark, don’t splash. They may confuse you with prey trying to get away. Instead, slowly walk towards the beach.

Don’t swim alone. Swimming in groups is safer.

Swimming at dusk and dawn are most dangerous because that’s the sharks’ hunting hours.

“My family and I, we go in the water all the time, and I think it’s a pretty safe environment. Long Island has a very productive and diverse marine habitat right off our coast and I think people should utilize it,” Frisk said.

Beaches that are now armed with extra monitoring and more awareness.

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