A 50-year-old woman was bitten by a shark off Rockaway Beach Monday afternoon, authorities said, in what appears to be the first confirmed shark bite in New York City in decades.
A New York City Parks Department spokeswoman said a shark bit a woman on the left leg as she swam near 59th Street Beach. The woman was swimming alone and lifeguards heard her screaming for help, a police report said.
Lifeguards removed her from the water, applied a tourniquet and administered first aid before paramedics rushed the woman to Jamaica Hospital in critical condition.
“We are confident that this swimmer will make a full recovery,” spokeswoman Megan Lawler said in a statement. “While this is a frightening event, we want to remind New Yorkers that shark bites in Rockaway are extremely rare.”
A spokeswoman for the New York City Police Department said Tuesday morning that the woman was in “serious but stable condition.” The woman may have lost about 20 pounds of flesh from the bite, according to the police report.
Lifeguards ordered everyone out of the water after the attack, and helicopters searched for sharks, but found none. The beach is closed for swimming and surfing on Tuesday.
Park officials described Monday’s shark attack as the first off Rockaway Beach in “recent memory.”
But Monday’s shark bite marked the first confirmed attack in New York City since the 1950s. According to the Global Shark Attack File, an unofficial database of such encounters. The last documented shark attack in the city recorded in that database was in 1958 when a man was bitten by a harpoon shark after baiting it.
“It’s not very common that we see this,” said Gavin Naylor, program director of the International Shark Attack File.
But he noted that bait fish, such as bluefish and bunker fish, have become more common in recent years in the Long Island area, and water quality is improving.
“It brings in a lot of animals that haven’t been there for a while, and with that, we get animals that prey on them,” Mr. Naylor said.
“We can expect that as the environment recovers we’re going to see it a little bit more,” he said, adding that people need to be more educated about the dangers of being in the water.
Knowing the extent of the woman’s injury and how deep the water was in the area where she swam on Monday would help identify the type of shark that bit her on Monday, Mr. Naylor said.
All of Rockaway’s beaches were closed for a day last July because of shark sightings, leaving only the boardwalk open to beachgoers.
The last known possible shark bite in Rockaway was in 2017. According to Patch.comOne surfer required 40 stitches in his right leg after the incident, it said.
A baby great white shark was spotted near where the man was wading, but an expert told Patch that the injuries do not appear to have been caused by a shark.
While shark bites are almost unheard of in New York City, they are somewhat rare on Long Island, where five shark attacks occurred in two weeks last summer. According to The Long Island Press.
Ed Shanahan And Chelsea Rose Marcius Contributed report.
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