A Long Island beach was briefly closed to swimming Wednesday after another individual was bitten by a shark — and an official has suggested more shark attacks there might be the "new normal."
The unidentified victim was paddleboarding around 7:30 a.m. at Smith Point Beach when the encounter occurred, Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone announced at a midday news conference on Wednesday.
This is the second shark bite incident to occur at Smith Point Beach in just 10 days. Bellone called it an "unprecedented" situation.
"We've not seen this before," he told reporters by the beach, later adding, "To have a second incident like this certainly is not something we would expect."
The creature involved in Wednesday's incident has been identified as a tiger shark, Bellone said. The victim believes the fish was about 4 feet in length.
The paddleboarder claims to have tried punching the shark after falling into the water, but later saw the shark turn back around, at which time "the initial bite occurred," Bellone explained.
"At that moment, fortunately, a wave carried the surfer and the paddleboard onto shore, and that was the last contact with the shark," the Suffolk County executive said.
Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone/Facebook
First responders said the individual suffered "about a four inch gash in his leg" as a result of the bite.
The paddleboarder "sought care" from nearby park rangers and was transported to Long Island Community Hospital for treatment, Bellone explained.
The Suffolk County Parks Department announced that swimming had been suspended "due to dangerous marine life activity" in a Facebook post shared by the department just after 9 a.m. Wednesday morning.
The beach reopened at 1:30 p.m., the department said in a subsequent post.
As Bellone noted, Wednesday's attack comes less than two weeks after a lifeguard was bitten by a shark off the same beach during a training exercise. (Bellone said that lifeguard has not yet returned to work, but is expected to do so "this week.")
Bellone thinks the incidents are "an indication" of a possible "new normal" for the Long Island area.
"I do believe we are looking at something that just may represent the new normal here on our beaches," he said, adding, "the idea of more frequent contact with these kinds of sharks may be what we will be coming to expect."
Bellone also warned of the dangers of entering the ocean without a lifeguard on duty, as the victim in Wednesday's attack did.
He also highlighted some "common-sense precautions" for beachgoers, such as not venturing too far away from shore, avoiding the water while bleeding and wearing "shiny jewelry."
With sharks getting "closer to shore than they've been," Bellone said it is important to be on the lookout for the animals. As a result, he said, human and shark interactions "may increase" in the area.
"Fortunately, we have not seen any significant injuries, nor do we expect that with the sharks that we've seen or that we're talking about," he told reporters. "But it is something for us to be aware of and conscious of."