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For Release: Saturday, August 1, 2020

DEC and State Parks Remind Swimmers and Boaters to Be Aware of Their Natural Surroundings

Sharks and Other Marine Animals Make Up New York's Diverse Coastal Ecosystem

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) today reminded New Yorkers that the state's coastal communities are part of a natural environment with a rich diversity of marine life, including sharks. During the State's response to COVID-19, more people are staying close to home and enjoying the outdoors. To help increase awareness of the potential for interactions with sharks, DEC and OPRHP are issuing tips to minimize interactions when in the water and working with State and local partners with heightened awareness to monitor for sharks in New York's waters.

"We have peacefully coexisted with sharks for thousands of years," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "Shark attacks on humans are extremely rare, but I encourage New Yorkers to exercise caution when swimming in the ocean. Increasing your awareness to your surroundings can help minimize the overall risk both to the public and the health of our shark population."

"State Parks lifeguards vigilantly watch over the water to protect our swimmers. At the first sighting or report of a shark in the water we exercise caution and clear the swimmers for their safety. Public safety is our highest priority," said Parks Long Island Regional Commissioner George Gorman.

Many species of sharks can be found in New York's marine waters and sharks play an important role in regulating and maintaining the balance of intricate marine ecosystems. There have been 19 shark sightings reported to DEC in the last 12 months, including sandbar, hammerhead, and thresher sharks, many reported by anglers far off-shore. Sharks can range in size from the four-foot, sand-dwelling Spiny Dogfish, to plankton-eating Basking Sharks that reach up to 40 feet in length. The biological characteristics of sharks can also differ greatly, including their prey and hunting styles. For a complete list of sharks found in New York waters, or to report shark sightings, visit DEC's website.

Although it is impossible to eliminate risk altogether when participating in any outdoor activity, DEC encourages the public to minimize potential interactions with sharks and reduce overall risk with the following tips:

  • Avoid swimming in the ocean at dusk, dawn, or night time;
  • Avoid areas with schools of bait fish. These areas are often characterized by fish splashing on the surface; diving terns and gulls; or the presence of marine mammals such as dolphins;
  • Avoid areas with seals;
  • Avoid murky water;
  • Avoid isolation. Swim, paddle, kayak, and surf in groups;
  • Swim close to shore, where your feet can touch the bottom;
  • Avoid areas where people are fishing;
  • Adhere to all signage at beaches; and
  • Always follow instructions of lifeguards and parks staff.

In the event of a shark bite:

  • Ensure your environment and surroundings are safe;
  • Call 9-1-1 or tell someone to call 9-1-1 immediately;
  • If you have first aid training, provide "Stop the Bleed" (leaves DEC's website) to the injured until help arrives;
  • If you are not directly caring for the individual, seek out first responders and direct them to individuals involved; and
  • Stay out of the water.

While enjoying outdoor spaces, please continue to PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL and follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)/New York State Department of Health (DOH) guidelines for the preventing the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19:

  • Stay home if you are sick, or showing or feeling any COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, coughing, and/or troubled breathing;
  • Practice social distancing. Keep at least six (6) feet of distance between you and others even when outdoors;
  • Wear a mask when you cannot maintain social distancing;
  • Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, and high-fives;
  • Wash hands often or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water are not available; and
  • Avoid unnecessary contact with surfaces that are often touched, such as doorknobs and handrails.

DEC and OPRHP's PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL campaign encourages New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, show respect for all outdoor adventurers, and use common sense to protect themselves and others.

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