2010-08-27 / Top Stories

Stingrays This Time…Not Sharks

By Nicholas Briano

Beachgoers watch the surf on Saturday near Beach 86 Street after initial reports of a shark sighting forced swimmers out of the water. Beachgoers watch the surf on Saturday near Beach 86 Street after initial reports of a shark sighting forced swimmers out of the water. Rockaway beachgoers were kept out of the water along the beachfront from Beach 86 Street west to Beach 116 Street last weekend over fears that sharks were once again swimming too close to the shoreline. Police officials, however, later confirmed that it wasn’t sharks scaring the bathers, but a school of stingrays that moved up and down the shoreline less than 100 yards offshore.

Nonetheless, beachgoers fled the waters around 12:30 p.m. last Saturday when lifeguards whistled to everyone to get back on land and closed the beaches for nearly two hours. This is the fourth time this season that Rockaway beaches experienced a shark scare.

Initial reports from the lifeguards indicated that 11 sharks were in the water along with a school of stingrays. However, an NYPD helicopter crew flew down the shoreline past Riis Park and only found the school of stingrays.

According to published reports, it is believed that they were Cownose Rays, who have a tendency to be mistaken for sharks when their fins pop up from the water. Parks Department officials concurred with police, also stating they were not sharks.

Director of the New York Aquarium in Coney Island, Jon Forrest Dohlin told The Wave on Wednesday that it’s not all that unusual for sharks to be seen up and down the coastline.

“Typically the sharks seen on occasion are the kind of coastal sharks whose prey is conducive to shallow waters,” he said.

As far as the stingrays go, they’re not all that rare either. Stingrays are just one of many diverse species that inhabit the Atlantic Ocean and he insists they are out there either way. He says it’s simply a matter of whether or not they are spotted.

People cringe in fear at the thought of swimming with sharks, but Dohlin says most sharks, especially the ones found in shallow waters, are not typically a threat to humans.

“There are more than 400 species of sharks,” he said. “But 99.9 percent of them are not going to represent a danger to humans.”

According to Dohlin, there has been no recorded scientific evidence that water temperature has an influence on the migration of sharks that wouldn’t usually inhabit this region or depth of water.

“Even though we’ve had a warm summer, water temperatures have stayed within normal ranges.”

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