NEW YORK (AP) — A woman was seriously injured after a shark bit her on the thigh while she was swimming at a New York City beach, officials said, a highly unusual attack that appears to be the first recorded bite on the city’s shoreline in decades.
The 65-year-old woman, whose name has not been released, was swimming off Rockaway Beach just before 6 p.m. Monday when a shark bit her on the left leg, the city parks department said in a statement.
Lifeguards pulled the woman from the water and administered first aid. The woman was taken to Jamaica Hospital in critical but stable condition with severe lacerations to her thigh, a police spokesperson said.
A photograph of the woman’s injury shared by lifeguards showed a deep gash above her knee, with several inches of outer thigh missing and blood around the wound. The bite appeared to be far more serious than many of the other shark encounters reported in the region, which often involve the predators lightly nibbling the swimmer to determine whether they are prey, then moving on.
“Though this was a frightening event, we want to remind New Yorkers that shark bites in Rockaway are extremely rare,” parks department spokesperson Meghan Lalor said. “We remain vigilant in monitoring the beach and always clear the water when a shark is spotted. “
Lifeguards cleared all swimmers from the water and police used a helicopter to search the area for sharks but did not find any, the parks department said. Rockaway Beach was closed to swimming and surfing Tuesday as a precaution.
Experts say shark bites are extremely rare, with roughly 70 to 80 unprovoked bites worldwide each year. The last recorded shark bite on Rockaway Beach came more than six decades ago, according to a database compiled by the International Shark Attack File. City parks officials said they had no knowledge of another shark bite “in recent memory.”
But shark sightings on New York beaches have increased in recent years, with the predators drawn closer to shore by a growing population of bait fish that have flourished under recent conservation efforts.
On Rockaway Beach, a bustling city shoreline that often attracts more than 100,000 people in a single day, officials have repeatedly closed stretches of water after shark sightings over the past two summers.
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Farther east of Rockaway, off the coast of Long Island, the number of shark bites has increased as well. In the past two summers, at least 13 swimmers reported being bitten off the coast of Long Island, officials said, though none of the injuries were considered serious. Before 2022, there were just a dozen known shark bites in New York’s history.
This story has been updated to correct the age of the shark bite victim, who is 65, and the spelling of Meghan Lalor’s first name.