Legislative efforts to preserve a certain type of bait fish are apparently working — and it may be part of the reason why so many sharks have attacked beachgoers off the coast of Long Island, New York.
A 2019 law passed by New York’s legislature outlawed the use of drawstring-like nets to fish for Atlantic menhaden, which overfishing had significantly depleted in 2011. The fish are a common food source for whales, dolphins, seals and sharks, according to the New York Post.
Frank Quevedo, executive director of the South Fork Natural History Museum Shark Research and Education Program, told the Post that as the fish’s booming population drifts closer to shore, and sharks follow them there to feast, “if people are in the middle of that frenzy … they’re gonna get bitten and that’s what happens.”
Six people have been bitten in the past three weeks along Long Island’s southern shore. Fortunately, the attacks have only resulted in minor injuries because the sharks measure between four and five feet.
However, larger sharks aren’t foreign to the area. A roughly eight-foot dead great white shark washed up on the shore in the eastern part of Long Island near Quogue.
Assemblyman Steve Englebright was a co-sponsor of the bill to protect Atlantic menhaden. He told the Post that “I’m not sure that one could have predicted there would be the seriousness that this has become.”
Still, the lawmaker said the legislation is having positive results while adding that the unprovoked shark attacks are “not something that one can legislate.”
Christopher Paparo, manager of Stony Brook University’s Marine Sciences Center, said that having more sharks in the water is a good sign.
“We’re seeing more sharks because our environment is much healthier and populations are much stronger due to conservation,” Mr. Paparo told the Post.
He said the greater number of interactions between sharks and people is a result of more sharks in general, making the chances of them coming across someone in the water more likely.