A college student has told how he caught a 400-pound, eight foot long bull shark off the coast of Long Island Beach.
TJ Minutillo, 21, who studies at Clemson University, captured the predator earlier this month after using a net of sea robin at Nickerson Beach. He told The New York Post he quickly released the shark back into the water after picturing it.
His catch comes amid an uptick in shark sightings off the coast of Long Island; nine more have been spotted in less than a week, some just 75 feet from the shore. In Maine swimmer Julie Dimperio Holowach was killed by a great white off Harpswell on Monday.
Manhasset resident Minutillo said: ‘I’ve always been fascinated by the ocean in general so I think it’s really cool to see them around. It can raise a bit of concern when you end up with a situation like the woman in Maine. Most of the time they’re harmless. But freak things happen sometimes.’
Three sharks were spotted off the coast of Long Island on Wednesday afternoon alone, GMA reports.
Long Island police have now deployed helicopters and boats to search for sharks following several sightings of the underwater predator. In Nassau County helicopters were sent up to spot sharks Wednesday.
There have been at least six other sightings in the area this week.
Nickerson beach lifeguard Ethan Grassini said he saw a six foot shark in chest deep water, swimming behind a school of rays.
Further down the shore at Point Lookout beach a 10 foot long shark is said to have been spotted 75 feet off shore.
Long Island is said to have seen double the usual numbers reported.
Swimming was banned at several Long Island beaches on Monday after a lifeguard reported seeing a large shark.
The ‘significant size’ shark was spotted by a Town of Hempstead lifeguard on a surfboard, town officials said in a tweet. Swimming was suspended at several beaches along Long Island’s south shore as a precaution.
Lifeguards in Hempstead snapped a photo of a dead skate fish that washed ashore with two massive shark bite marks on its fins.
Lifeguard Logan Fitzgerald said of the shark he spotted: ‘It came out of the water, spun around. Just didn’t look like a dolphin. Definitely a shark.’
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran tweeted: ‘Just another day in 2020.’
Marine experts believe the spike in shark sightings may be because of growing seal populations and the fact that both species are protected by law.
Officials say that while shark attacks are rare, it is normal for great white sharks to be sighted in New England as the predators move north in search of seal colonies.
There have been 13 shark attacks in 2020 alone, two of them fatal. The first fatality was in California and the second in Maine on Monday, marking the first deadly shark attack in the state’s history.
The death this week of swimmer Holowach, who was killed by a great white off Harpswell, Maine, might have happened because the shark mistook her for a seal, authorities said.
Swimmers off the New England states have learned to be more mindful in recent years due to a spate of sightings of great whites, the apex predator made famous in the movie Jaws.
On Wednesday Nassau County Executive Laura Curran increased the number of patrols after two days of shark sightings on the South Shore, which led to the closure of Nickerson Beach, Jones Beach State Park and Long Beach.
Curran warned Long Island citizens to stay close to the shore, for beachgoers to swim in groups and avoid wearing shiny jewelry which sharks can mistake for the scales of a fish and to avoid swimming when bleeding.
A shark that killed a man off Cape Cod in 2018 was also believed to be a great white.
That was the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts in more than eight decades, while the death of Holowach on Monday was the first documented fatal shark attack in Maine history.
One expert has told swimmers to avoid swimming at sunrise and sunset as the ‘changing light conditions really favor predators’.
New York has had at least 20 shark sightings in the past 12 months.
Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said there have been just 12 confirmed shark bites in New York waters since 1837. The most recent shark bite occurred on Fire Island in 2018 after a 70-year stretch of no shark attacks in local waters.
Paul Sieswerda, executive director of the marine research organization Gotham Whale, which has monitored sharks off the South Shore over the summer, has received reports of several different species of sharks in the area so far.
‘Some of the sharks have been hammerheads, spinner sharks, thresher sharks and animals that tend to be at the surface,’ Sieswerda said.
‘There are a number of other sharks out there that stay below that have been there forever like sand tiger sharks, spiny dogfish, smooth dogfish and those are just natural sharks that pose no threat to humans,’ he added.
Still, officials say shark attacks are incredibly rare and the chances are one in 12million.