Sick Shark Causes Jaws-Sized Panic
Hundreds of screaming bathers scrambled out of the surf last Saturday when a 6-foot thresher shark floated up on Beach 107 Street.
The shark, which had reportedly been struck by a motor boat in Jamaica Bay before swimming to the ocean side of the Rockaway Peninsula, was first reported at about 10:30 a.m. and about 15 feet from the shore on Beach 109 Street.
Lifeguards quickly blew the whistle to get everybody out of the water and eyewitnesses said that the pace quickened when the word "shark" began to spread.
"When we heard that there was a shark in the water, we really got out of there," one beachgoer told The Wave. "Even though it didn't look threatening, it wasn't the time to stick around and find out."
The sick fish floated in to shore and floundered in the surf.
"It was just flopping around, clearly suffering," the swimmer said.
Some of the beachgoers grabbed the tail of the suffering shark and pulled it back into the ocean.
An hour later, however, the lifeguard whistles blew again as the shark returned, circling the beachfront for hours, getting close and then moving away. The presence of the shark forced swimmers out of the water until about 3:30 p.m., when the sick fish disappeared.
On Sunday, however, a thresher shark, presumably the same one from the day before, was found at 6 a.m., beached on the sand at Beach 113 Street.
Parks Department sources said that the shark died before animal rescue workers could come to its aid.
Shark experts all agreed that the fish had to be sick to act as it did.
"It is sad, but kind of inevitable," a spokesperson for the New York Aquarium told Daily News reporter Ikimulsia Livingston. "If a thresher shark comes to shore repeatedly and swims towards the beach, there is something wrong [with it]."
He added that the sharks are not dangerous and feed mostly on small fish.
"The only way the shark was a danger to people is if they stepped on its teeth," he said.
Abigail Lootens, a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, said that the lifeguards did a good job when the shark appeared.
"The lifeguards appropriately closed that section of the beach for most of the day," said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. "The shark could be seen swimming just off shore for several hours. The beach was closed for public safety reasons as the citizens, the Urban Park Rangers and the Riverhead Foundation worked to save one of the most respected creatures of the deep."
The beaches were reopened for the remainder of the Labor Day weekend and bathers safely returned to the water.