HAMPTON BAYS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Several Long Island beaches were shut down to swimming last week due to a number of shark sightings.
CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis went on an exclusive ride-along with an expert to find out why it seems we’re seeing more sharks.
She hit the water with Capt. Greg Metzger, heading from Hampton Bays out east on the Atlantic Ocean for a close look at what’s below it.
Soaking in the sensational sight of dolphins and a humpback whale in the search for sharks is Metzger’s mission as field coordinator for the South Fork Natural History Museum’s Shark Research and Education Program.
“There’s quite a variety of shark species that are here now,” Metzger said.
One way to find the sharks is to look for schools of bunker fish, and there were plenty the day DeAngelis was on the water.
“We know there’s sharks feeding on this school because when the sharks come in on the edges the fish don’t want to get eaten, so they jump out of the way and it makes that big white boil,” Metzger said.
It’s a perfect place for the team to try and reel in a shark and collect important data.
“This is a spinner shark, because it’s black here on the anal fin. If it was white that would be a black tip,” Metzger said.
The next step is tagging the shark, and they gave DeAngelis the honor before it was released.
A satellite tag is one way the team collects data on sharks’ movement. One part stays on the shark for about a month and sends data to a satellite. The other piece remains on the shark so if it’s recaptured, others know it has been tagged.
Another more advanced way the team tracks sharks is using the special “cats cam.”
“It records the water temperature, the water depth,” Metzger said.
It also has a camera, which captures hours of footage before eventually popping off the animal and floating to the surface. Through special transmitters, the team can retrieve it.
“What we’re most interested in is how are these sharks utilizing Long Island waters,” Metzger said.
Metzger’s work also includes educating students like Mike Chacon, a recent Commack High School graduate.
“Really amazing to see how the populations are rebounding and how many different species we have in the area,” Chacon said.
“The water is getting warmer and we clearly have a lot more food here, so it makes perfect sense that we’re starting to see some of these species come into our area,” Metzger said.
“I see the school of bunker behind us. I see how close we are to the beach. Is this one of the reasons why people are seeing sharks?” DeAngelis asked.
“Yeah, 100%. Usually these bunker schools are not this close to the beach. For whatever reason this year they just have been real tight to the beach like this,” Metzger said.
And he said sharks will chase food, not caring what’s in their way. He is advising people pay attention to where they’re swimming, but also keep in mind that seeing more sharks is a good sign.
“We’re starting to reap the rewards of years and years and years of conservation efforts, so I love seeing them,” Metzger said.