Shark week on Long Island has come to an anticlimactic conclusion.
Officials said swimmers will be allowed back in the water this weekend at Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton after bathing had been temporarily barred when about a half a dozen sharks nearly 20-feet long had been spotted close to the shoreline Tuesday afternoon and again Wednesday morning.
“The Coast is clear,” said Tracey Bellone, deputy commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreations and Preservation. Police and parks staff had been keeping a watch on the Atlantic Ocean waterfront there just in case the sharks returned.
Marine biologists told the Press that the sharks were likely plankton-eating basking sharks that were feeding in the area and followed the flow of their food eastward. Basking sharks are the second largest fish in the ocean next to the Whale shark and can grow to be up to 40-feet long.
“They’re not capable of taking a limb or taking a chunk of flesh,” said Chris Paparo of Atlantis Marine World. But if swimmers got too close the shark could get spooked and hurt someone with its tail as it swims away, he said.
Swimming at Smith Point County Park on the other side of the Moriches Inlet had been briefly suspended as a precaution Tuesday but that ban has since been lifted.
Signs had been posted at Cupsogue beach that warned in big red bold type: “Absolutely no swimming due to recent shark sightings.”
Cupsogue beach has weekend lifeguard coverage through June 24, when there will be lifeguards on duty seven days a week. Smith Point has fulltime lifeguard coverage between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Cupsogue Beach is on the western end of Dune Road next to the Village of Westhampton Dunes.
There were 79 shark attacks worldwide last year, only six of which proved fatal. Basking sharks are a protected species due to overfishing and the rate at which they are struck and killed by boaters.