Today's Shark-Attack Anniversary in Long Island Sound

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By Maritime Aquarium on July 26, 2013, 3:04pm Last modified: July 30, 2013, 9:29am

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Monday presents an interesting anniversary in our history with Long Island Sound: it will be 52 years since the most-recent shark attack in the Sound.

Based on information from two websites that keep track of such things –  www.sharkattackfile.info and www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/ISAF/ISAF.htm – July 29, 1961, was the most-recent occasion that a shark took a nip out of anyone in the Sound.

(Note that I refer to this attack as “the most-recent,” not “the last.” Although it hasn’t happened for 52 years, it probably won’t be the last time it happens.)

According to the websites, a man named Bruno Junker, 57, was spearfishing off of Whitewood Point in Oyster Bay on Long Island when he was bitten on his fingers and right shin by a speared shark – the species, unidentified.

Bitten by a speared shark. We’ll call that a provoked attack.

Coming over to the Connecticut side of the Sound, the most-recent attack seems to have been on Aug. 24, 1960, off of Eames Monument in Bridgeport when a fellow named Clyde Trudeau suffered a “superficial laceration of his left arm” while he was “free diving.”  Again, the species of shark wasn’t identified.

A newspaper clipping from the next day reports that police, Navy and Coast Guard officials in the tri-state area were on a “large-scale shark watch” following the attacks on poor Mr. Trudeau and an earlier unspecified incident four days earlier.

Prior to that scare, you have to go back to Aug. 26, 1933, when one Helen Clarke had a bite taken out of her foot in the Mystic River.

So for Connecticut, that’s two attacks in 80 years. While you may be alarmed to learn that there are any sharks in Long Island Sound, it seems you can take comfort that your chances for being sampled by a shark are pretty low.

As we’ve blogged about before, we humans are a much greater threat to the survival of sharks. The populations of many species have been reduced dramatically by overfishing, finning, pollution and habitat loss.

Still, it is the summer bathing season so here are several tips from the International Shark Attack File for reducing your risk of a shark encounter:

  • Avoid being in the water from sunset to sunrise, when sharks are most active and have a sensory advantage.

  • Stay in a group, and don’t wander too far from shore.
  • Avoid wearing shiny jewelry, because the reflected light resembles the sheen of fish scales.
  • Despite what you may have heard, porpoise sightings do not indicate the absence of sharks. In fact, the opposite is often true. Also be on the lookout for signs of bait fishes or feeding activity. (Diving seabirds are good indicators of such action.) Animals that eat the same food items are often found in close proximity. Remember, a predator is never too far from its prey.
  • Refrain from excess splashing, and do not allow pets in the water because of their erratic movements.
  • Exercise caution when occupying the area between sandbars or near steep drop-offs, as these are favorite hangouts for sharks.
  • Stay calm if you do see a shark, and maintain your position in as quiet a manner as possible. Most sharks merely are curious and will leave on their own. 

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Centerpiece of the South Norwalk ("SoNo") waterfront neighborhood of Norwalk, The Maritime Aquarium features sharks, seals, sea turtles and other animals of Long Island Sound and its watershed.  A celebrated place for family fun, the Aquarium also features Connecticut's largest IMAX movie theater, plus animal encounters at sea during our research vessel's study cruises.

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Maritime Aquarium

Town: Norwalk, CT  

Reporting for WXedge since March 2013.

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