Officials have confirmed that one of the two children who sustained bites while swimming off Fire Island earlier this week was indeed bitten by a shark. According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the tooth fragment removed from 13-year-old Matthew Donaldson's leg is consistent with a shark, though the exact species remains unclear. It marks the first unprovoked shark attack verified in the state since 1953.
The DEC has not confirmed the source of 12-year-old Lola Pollina's bites, which she sustained just a few minutes prior to Donaldson's encounter, on a beach about 4 miles away. Both children were released from the hospital with non life-threatening injuries, and are reportedly in good spirits.
On Thursday, Governor Cuomo announced he was launching a special investigation into the apparent attacks. While that multi-agency effort hasn't exposed any illicit underwater activity just yet, some other dudes fishing off the beach seemed to have no trouble living out their Jaws-inspired fantasies.
EXCLUSIVE: video of one of two large sharks pulled from Atlantique Beach on Fire Island this morning pic.twitter.com/vlVzRxIIVL
— Kristin Thorne (@KristinThorne) July 19, 2018
The above footage, obtained by ABC-7, shows one of two sand tiger sharks that were hauled in off the coast of Fire Island on Thursday, according to the National Park Service. Both sharks were caught by anglers approximately 100 yards from the shore, town officials said, and both were released back into the water.
The bite sustained by Lola Pollina (Courtesy of Barbara Pollina)
The other catch took place off the coast of Kismet Beach, about two miles away (PIX11 has photos). That shark might have resembled the one that bit Pollina on Wednesday, according to her mother. "The bent/floppy top fin looked like the fin she saw size and color wise," Barbara Pollina told Gothamist. "But who knows!"
Pollina's mom adds that her daughter was very grateful that the two sharks were released, and that "any other result would've crushed her."
According the Department of Environmental Conservation's website, the sand tiger is one of three species of large shark commonly encountered from the shore, along with sandbar and dusky sharks. Anglers are prohibited from taking, or even targeting, those sharks.
Jim Gelsleichter, a biologist at the University of North Florida, tells Gothamist that the sand tiger sharks are "fearsome looking, but not a species that we would generally associate with a significant number of attacks." Due to their appearance and proximity to shore, the shark is often hunted by revenge-seekers following high-profile shark attacks, Gelsleichter said. That's one reason the worldwide population has been "put at significant risk" in recent years, according to the biologist.
(The species also has a slow rate of reproduction, and is known for an extremely metal breeding process called intrauterine cannibalization, in which a larger embryo actually consumes its smaller womb-mates).
Regardless of whether an angler returns the shark to the water, Gelsleichter warns against fishing for the species. "Whenever this happens, there's a good portion of them that end up dead because they'll swallow the hook," he said. "Going out just trying to catch one or two to minimize the risk is not going to have an impact."
Fire Island's beaches have reopened with extra lifeguards on duty. The fragments of shark tooth will reportedly be returned to Donaldson, at his request.