It was just in time for Shark Week.
A roughly four-foot-long juvenile Mako shark was unaware that its unusual appearance coincided with the Discovery Channel’s popular annual “Shark Week” programming as it swam along the shoreline near the commercial fishing dock at Shinnecock Inlet in Hampton Bays on Tuesday, August 7, before a pack of gawkers, nevertheless leaving a lasting impression.
Video footage of the unusual sighting was forwarded to Greg Metzger of the South Fork Natural History Museum’s Shark Education and Research Project, an alliance of the Long Island Shark Collaborative, for his insight on the species. In the video, which was posted the same day by Joshua Gold on Facebook under the heading “There be sharks in these here waters,” a group of people can be seen watching the shark as it swam along, seemingly unaware of the ruckus it was causing, outside Sundays on the Bay restaurant.
Metzger said the footage was shared with a team of biologists, who determined the shark was a young Mako, not a Blue Shark as is suggested by an onlooker in the video.
He said it was likely the shark was drawn to the area by the prospect of dining on some ample baitfish along the shoreline, since the area around the South Shore inlets are very productive at this time of year.
“It’s almost like waking up to see a deer in Southampton Village,” he said. “It’s a little unusual but not crazy.”
By evening on Sunday, August 12, the video footage had 94,000 views on Facebook and was shared 1000 times by fans. The footage also generated 164 responses.
Sharks generated a buzz this past month as two people were bitten by them off Fire Island within the span of a couple of hours.
Metzger said that according to a study of shark encounters over the past 100 years, there have only been 12 such encounters, including the most recent two. “How many people have been in the water in the last 100 years — it’s probably billions — and it’s only 12 people who have had a negative interaction. Just to put it into perspective, the number of any negative interaction is so infinitesimally small,” he said.
In other marine news last week, the head of a whale carcass washed up on a beach in Quogue, also causing tongues to wag. During a necropsy, the partially decomposed head did show evidence that shark teeth had bitten into its flesh, according to Metzger, who saw photos of the remains. Because the full body of the whale was not available for necropsy, it’s unclear how the whale died, though it is unlikely the sharks killed it, since they are known more as opportunistic scavengers.
“They definitely would take advantage of it, if they came upon it in the water,” he said, adding that the bite marks could have been attributed to either a Great White, Blue Shark, or Tiger Shark in open water.
Metzger urged anyone who might want to report a shark sighting to call the research program at the museum at 631-537-9735. Anyone seeking to identify the species of shark that they have captured photographs or video, can email the footage or image along to firstname.lastname@example.org.