Two children were injured in possible shark encounters off Fire Island beaches on Wednesday. According to authorities, a 13-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl were both bitten within 15 minutes of each other while swimming in waters off Atlantique Beach and Sailors Haven—about 5 miles apart. Both children were released from the hospital after sustaining non-life threatening injuries, and are reportedly in "good spirits."
If the bites did in fact come from a shark, it would be the first unprovoked shark attack in the state since 1953. But investigators are still analyzing a fragment of tooth that was found in the teenage boy's leg, and the National Park Service is saying only that it is "consistent with a large fish." The 12-year-old girl, who was reportedly in waist-deep water at the time of the incident, told reporters on Wednesday that she saw a "small fin" on top of a "tannish, orangey-like body."
All of this is legitimately alarming, of course. But as the tabloids reach for their panic whistles once again, it bears repeating that "shark attacks"—itself a pretty loaded term—do not pose a serious threat to the average beach-goer.
As Chris Berger, the president of OCEARCH, a non-profit dedicated to great white shark research, told us during the great Mary Lee madness a few years ago, the majestic animals "have been cruising around crowded beaches for a very long time and clearly have no interest in humans. To put it in perspective, there are more toaster fatalities annually than shark attacks—yes, it’s more dangerous to make toast." So, unless you are a seal, you're probably better off worrying about the fact that sharks, essential to our ecosystem, are endangered worldwide.
Still, out of an abundance of caution and/or insatiable bloodlust for threatened species, Governor Andrew Cuomo has launched a "multi-agency investigation" into the matter. He's sent Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos—who doesn't not look a bit like Richard Dreyfuss, if you squint—to patrol the area for possible shark activities. Last night's stakeout, however, yielded only dolphin sightings.
Meanwhile, in the actually shark infested waters of Twitter, de Blasio's and Cuomo's press flacks are doing their normal routine in which they try to own each other online for an imaginary audience of taxpayers who appreciate sick burns referencing minor news stories from four years ago.
As we speak, some innocent oceanic animal scientist is being cajoled into serving on the Long Island Shark Attack Commission. All swimming by sharks suspended until we know what the hell is going on. https://t.co/KN6Fcbd1lU
— Eric Phillips (@EricFPhillips) July 19, 2018
— Dani Lever (@Dani_Lever) July 19, 2018
(It's almost not worth acknowledging at this point, but every so often it feels prudent to step back and recognize just how insanely pointless this feud has become. Because it really is kind of maddening when you realize that vitally important New York issues—like public housing or crumbling subways—are approached with the exact same knee-jerk bickering that the state's highest offices bring to manufactured nap scandals and deer euthanization. For some reason, we're all just supposed to accept that an enormous amount of public time and money should go toward sustaining this exhausting, petty rivalry of male egos that has long since, well, jumped the shark.)
In any case, Gothamist Editor-in-Chief John Del Signore spent most of yesterday muttering to himself that there is no shark, and that we're all freaking about nothing—though that might have more to do with the fact that John has a scheduled vacation in Fire Island coming up, and is desperately hoping to avoid a beach closure. Or maybe he's right, and the mayor and governor are fighting over an imaginary shark.
We'll update when we find out.