Officials Warn Beachgoers to Watch Out for This "Unprecedented" Threat

You may want to be extra cautious on your next summer outing.

Heading to the beach is easily one of the highlights of summer. There's nothing quite like setting up on the sand and feeling the cool ocean breeze on your skin. Whether you like to lay a towel out to get an even tan, or prefer to sit beneath the shade of an umbrella, the beach is an unbeatable relaxation destination. Now, however, officials have issued a new warning about something that could threaten the calm atmosphere you're craving. Read on to find out what "unprecedented" threat beachgoers need to be aware of, and where you should be on especially high alert.

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Staying safe in the ocean is top-of-mind during the summer months.

running into ocean
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You've surely heard different tips for swimming in the ocean. Maybe you were taught not to swim for at least an hour after eating (not true), or maybe you were told not to fight a rip current if you end up caught in one (this one's real).

Earlier this summer, experts issued a a specific warning for ocean swimming. If you notice a set of waves forming a square pattern, proceed with caution. As reported by Travel + Leisure, these square waves—known as "cross seas"—can be dangerous, and the mixing of moving water can create 10-foot powerful swells and overwhelm swimmers. They can also create those nasty rip currents, making it that much more dangerous for you to be in the water.

And now, it's not just waves and currents that pose a threat, as a certain predator has been making its way through the water.

Long Island beachgoers will need to heed a new warning.

shark fin on surface
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You may hear the phrase "shark attack" and immediately think of the movie Jaws or other horror films where people are preyed on in open water. But shark attacks do happen, and they are occurring more than you might think.

During a July 13 press conference, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone issued a warning about a significant increase in shark attacks on Long Island, compared to years prior. Two people were bitten by sharks on Fire Island on Wednesday, bringing the total number of attacks to five this season.

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Attacks occurred at different beaches along the shore line.

surfers walking into ocean
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One of the recent incidents involved a surfer off of Smith Point, who was knocked off of his board at 7:30 a.m. The surfer believed his attacker was a tiger shark, which also bit him on his calf and left a four-inch gash, Bellone said during the press conference. Swimming was suspended at Smith Point Beach following the incident. This is not the first time this summer someone has been bitten at Smith Point, as a lifeguard was attacked during a training session on July 8.

"To have two of these incidents happen for us, for this facility, for this beach, is unprecedented. We've not seen this before," Bellone said on July 13, noting that the beach hasn't been closed to swimming since the opening of Smith Point County Park in 1959.

"What we're looking at is something of a new normal, in that tiger sharks are just a little bit closer to shore than they've been. They've always been here, they've always been out there, of course, you're interacting with marine life whenever you are out in the ocean," Bellone added. "Fortunately, we've not seen any significant injuries."

After Bellone's press conference, another shark attack occurred later in the day, 15 miles north of Smith Point at Seaview Beach, Gothamist reported. A man from Arizona was reportedly wading in waist-deep water at 6:05 p.m. and was bitten in both the wrist and buttocks, leading to him being taken by helicopter to the hospital. While his injuries were not life-threatening, officials remain concerned. The other two attacks were reported on the shores of Ocean Beach and Jones Beach on Long Island earlier this summer.

Experts have recommendations for keeping yourself safe.

shark in water
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Over the last 10 years, New York had reported just four instances of unprovoked shark bites, according to researchers from the University of Florida (UF), per Gothamist. And while the five reports this summer are cause for concern, experts say shark attacks are very rare, and the occurrences in New York are "in-line" with trends around the globe.

"If sharks were interested in biting people, we'd have tens of thousands of shark bites every day," Gavin Naylor, director of shark research at UF, told Gothamist. "There's lots of sharks in the water and there's lots of people in the water. So the fact that they're so incredibly rare is a reflection of the fact that when it does happen, it's a mistake."

However, sharks might be more likely to attack you if you're swimming in low-visibility waters, Naylor told the outlet, meaning you'll want to avoid areas where fishermen could be throwing chum into the water. Also, he recommends that you avoid swimming near schools of bait fish and going in the water at dawn and dusk, which is when sharks are hungry and may be feeding.

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