Tags Posts tagged with "Sharks"

Sharks

The Sand Tiger Shark, shown here in the NY Aquarium, is a common species that lives and feeds in coastal New York area waters. Credit: Julie Larsen, Wildlife Conservation Society

Scientists call for more research and key steps to gathering evidence around human-shark interactions, perspective published in Journal of Fish Biology

The lack of evidence about shark biology, their prey, and changes in the ecosystems of New York area coastal waters is a driving force to expand research about sharks and their populations in the region, so say a team of scientists in an article published in the Journal of Fish Biology.

As the 2023 summer season wraps up and marine biologists look to a new season and coming summers, the perspective piece challenges an emerging view that there is a growing number of human-shark interactions in the New York Bight (a triangular coastal region encompassing ocean and bay waters from New Jersey to the NYC metro area and Long Island) – all this because of growing shark populations and their feeding habits.

Lead author Oliver N. Shipley, PhD, a Research Assistant Professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University, and colleagues describe the current knowledge of shark biology in the region and detail the misalignment between scientific knowledge and anecdotal information reported in recent years in the media about sharks in the region. They provide several critical areas for future research that they hope will promote positive attitudes of sharks and their conservation and help mitigate future human-shark conflicts.

“Shark populations are poorly studied in the New York Bight. When human-shark interactions occur, this paucity of scientific data has resulted in inaccurate messages from some mainstream media trying to assign causality to these incidents,” says Shipley. “We are calling for steps to be taken to advance scientific knowledge in order to better understand shark populations and why human-shark interactions may be occurring.”

According to the authors, population declines of sharks and their relatives have been well documented over the last several decades, globally, primarily because of targeting fishing and bycatch from commercial and recreational fisheries. Yet in the temperate waters of the New York Bight, sharks have received heighted attention due to a reported increase in their activity close to the shore. And the complex relationship between sharks and humans has been further ignited by a recent spike in human-shark interactions along the coastal New York Bight.

The authors write: “Although we acknowledge both sightings of sharks and reporting of negative human-shark interactions has increased in recent years, assigning any immediate causality would be irresponsible and risky to both sharks and human stakeholders in the absence of scientific support.”

To counter the easily perceived immediate causality to the human-shark encounters, Shipley and colleagues recommend that going forward the following research avenues are necessary to gather evidence about shark populations in the region:

There needs to be an expansion of coastwide monitoring programs in the context of climate change. They suggest shark monitoring methods can include multiple approaches, such as coastal drone surveys, environmental DNA assessments, and robust spatial analyses that quantify interactions between climate and sharks, and their prey across time.

Michael Frisk, PhD, a Professor at SoMAS and senior author on the paper, explains that such surveys would lead to novel long-term data that can be used to assess the distribution of sharks in response to prey movements and environmental conditions. It would also help to better understand the environmental conditions that increase the potential overlap between sharks and humans, and therefore help to gauge the possibilities of such encounters and potentially reduce or prevent them.

At SoMAS, several research groups are undertaking research that examines so-called “hotspots” of shark-prey interactions along southern Long Island, and where these may be impacted by warming ocean conditions.

Shipley says he and fellow researchers intend to begin systematic drone surveys at several pilot beaches to support townships and state shark monitoring initiatives, in hopes of providing new data on the probability of human-shark overlap and what conditions may drive such overlap.

Co-authors of the position paper include: Michael G. Frisk of SoMAS; Jill A. Olin of the Great Lakes Research Center, Michigan Technological University; Christopher Scott, Division of Marine Resources, New York Department of Environmental Conservation; and Merry Camhi, of the New York Seascape Program at the New York Aquarium and Wildlife Conservation Society.

 

Photo by Des Kerrigan from Pixabay
By Carolyn Sackstein

In keeping with heightened media attention to the threat of shark bites, TBR News Media went to the streets on Saturday, July 8, asking visitors to Port Jefferson if they were concerned about reports of shark sightings and shark attacks on Long Island’s South Shore. 

One person voiced fear of sharks. Another said she doesn’t like fish in general. The rest seemed confident that local authorities and lifeguards could minimize the risks from sharks and keep beachgoers safe.

— Photos by Carolyn Sackstein

 

Douglas Maze, Connecticut, and Dee Schmitt, Connecticut

When asked if they had changed their beach habits due to the recent reports of shark attacks, Douglas said, “Yes, I will not go to the beach or in the water because I have a fear of sharks.” When asked how long he feared sharks, he replied, “My whole life.” 

Dee said, “Yes and no. I am more cautious now. I still go in the water, but only up to my knees. That’s about it.”

 

 

 

Lisa Freeman, Tarpon Springs, Florida, and Al Latchford, Clearwater, Florida

Lisa responded to our inquiries with, “Yes, I go to Clearwater Beach, which is in the Gulf of Mexico.” She also acknowledged that there are sharks in the Gulf and that she plans to go in the water while she is visiting Long Island. “I am going to Robert Moses [State Park] tomorrow. We heard there are shark sightings there.” When asked if sharks deter her from going in the water, she said, “No. We respect that it is their place. If we see them, we get out of their way.”

 Al added, “As long as we are aware and watching out what is going on, I’m OK with going in the water. No fear, just caution.”

 

 

Mike and Lauren Librizzi, Lynbrook 

Mike said, “I go to, more often than not, Atlantic Beach [in Hempstead].” When asked if he was concerned about the recent sightings and attacks, he replied, “Not as much. If the lifeguards are on duty, and you’re being smart by not going in too deep, you should be OK.”

Lauren won’t go in the water at the beach. She explained she does like the beach for the sun and sand: “We go to a beach club in Atlantic Beach. I just don’t like fish. If I can’t see my feet, I don’t go in. I do go into pools.”

 

 

 

Genie Weisman, Mount Sinai

When asked if she goes to any of the South Shore beaches, Genie offered, “Not very often. We’ve taken the kids to Corey Beach [on the Great South Bay].” She explained that not going to the beaches anymore is a matter of opportunity, not sharks. Genie suggested that the increase in shark sightings is likely, “the bunkers and the bait fish. [Sharks] are following their food.” She added that she is willing to go to a beach if the opportunity arises, “probably, as long as there are no red flags.”

 

 

Megan Wesolowski and Jake Hine, Port Jefferson Station

Megan said she goes to Cupsogue Beach. Jake also goes to Cupsogue and out in Montauk.

When asked why they chose those areas, Megan explained, “Nice sand, the water’s nice. They keep it clean.” When asked about the recent shark reports, they weren’t concerned. Megan said, “I hadn’t really thought about it.” 

Jake continued, “We swim at our own risk either way — lifeguards or no lifeguards. We just like the towns over there. No change [in beach habits], still going in.”

 

Gregg Fedus, Mystic, Connecticut

“I don’t really know about the local reports [on shark sightings and attacks] because I just came here yesterday and staying for the weekend. My guess is it’s overblown a little bit. You’ve just gotta be careful when you’re out on the water.” He feels the warmer water is drawing the sharks here. When asked if he would go into the water, he responded, “Sure.”

 

 

 

 

Trey Pratt, Old Saybrook, Connecticut

When asked if he fears sharks, he emphatically responded, “No!” When asked what is responsible for the reports of shark sightings, he felt it is due to “active media!” He fishes but has no problem going to any of the ocean beaches or fear of needing “a bigger boat.”

Photo from Unsplash/David Close

It’s summer, that time of year when our residents can enjoy the full splendors of our incredible seashores. 

It’s an opportunity for us to soak up sunrays and cool off in the ocean. But when enjoying a summer’s day at the beach, we must be on guard for sharks, remembering to take the appropriate safety measures.

Scientists are seeing rising shark populations in the surrounding waters of Long Island. Healthier waters have allowed marine life to thrive. And sharks, at the peak of the aquatic food chain, play an essential role in stabilizing the ecosystem. Rising shark populations suggest our conservation efforts are going rewarded.

Consequently, interactions with these apex predators have become more commonplace. Already this summer, there have been five reported shark encounters in Suffolk County waters.

As the likelihood of making contact with a shark increases, we must begin to adapt our behaviors to meet the demands of the changing environment and keep ourselves safe.

While we cannot eliminate the threat of shark interactions altogether, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation outlines ways to reduce these risks.

NYSDEC advises against swimming in areas with seals, schools of fish, splashing fish or diving seabirds. Swimmers should avoid bathing at dusk, night or dawn, as these are peak feeding periods for sharks.

We should also refrain from swimming in murky waters, stay close to the shore and swim in groups. And we must always remember to swim in front of a lifeguard and listen closely to their instructions.

Although a classic, the 1975 film “Jaws” did a tremendous disservice to sharks’ reputations. These marine creatures play an important role in regulating marine life; they are not monsters and are unworthy of the ridicule cast upon them by popular culture.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration maintains that most sharks are not a danger to humans as we “are not part of their natural diet.” Still, when we enter their waters, we must play by their rules. 

A little precaution can go a long way. By taking a few positive steps and proactive measures, we can all enjoy this summer — humans and sharks both.

The sand tiger shark, pictured above, is one of several shark species that inhabit the surrounding waters of Long Island. Photo by Christopher Mark from Wikimedia Commons

Last week’s Fourth of July celebrations brought fireworks, family gatherings, barbecues and interactions between people and sharks.

Independence Day has increased the number of brushes between these apex predators and humans over the last two years, particularly as people head to the beach in larger numbers around the holiday.

Christoper Paparo, Southampton Marine Science Center manager at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. File photo

Sharks go “wherever there’s salt water” and they often follow bunker fish, which can come closer to shore, said Christoper Paparo, Southampton Marine Science Center manager at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. People encounter sharks around Independence Day because “there are more people around state parks on the Fourth of July weekend.”

Despite potential hysteria and concern about the dangers posed by sharks, most of the encounters around Long Island are “minor” and “not life threatening,” Paparo added.

The waters in the area are a nursery for many species of fish, including sharks. Young sea turtles, dolphins and whales also live along the more protected shoreline.

In recent weeks, five people have reported shark bites along the South Shore. In one incident, a shark bit a 15-year-old boy on the heel and toes. He was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. Also last week, a 15-year-old girl was injured with puncture wounds from an unknown source at Robert State Moses Park.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, at podium, urged residents to take protective measures to minimize the risk of shark encounters. Photo from Bellone’s Flickr page

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) recently announced that the county would step up its surveillance efforts, adding two high-tech drones at the ocean beaches.

“Shark bites and shark incidents are something that we’re going to have to be addressing on a more regular basis,” Bellone said at a press conference at Smith Point County Beach announcing the new measures. “It’s simply going to be a part of the routine of what we do out here every day in terms of the monitoring that our ocean lifeguards do.”

Surveillance teams go out on wave runners and paddle boards, while lifeguards also use binoculars to watch over swimming areas.

The county will train lifeguards as drone operators.

“This is not a simple thing,” Bellone said. “This is something that requires skill and expertise.”

As county beaches await the arrival of these new drones, the beaches have area fire and rescue available to respond to any needs.

“Our goal here is first and foremost to keep residents safe,” Bellone added, “and to provide a sense of reassurance and comfort, knowing that when you come to the beaches, we have every tool at our disposal ready to assist.”

New surveillance drones, pictured above, will help the county government monitor shark activity along its beaches. Photo from Steve Bellone’s Flickr page

Protective measures

Bellone urged the public to take measures to minimize the risk of shark encounters.

The county executive advised people not to swim at dawn or dusk when sharks might be feeding. He also cautioned against swimming toward schools of fish, which might attract sharks who can’t differentiate between a fish and a person swimming.

“Always swim in a lifeguard-protected area,” he added. “Don’t swim when lifeguards are not on duty.”

People who paddle board, kayak or surf should go out in groups.

The sharks in the area are a reflection of a healthy ecosystem, Paparo indicated.

“You need everything below [a shark] to support it,” he said. “If there are no fish or the water is polluted, you won’t see sharks.”

Sharks rely on other senses besides eyesight to find their prey. A swimmer in murky waters can send the same type of electromagnetic signal a shark picks up from a school of fish on the surface of the water.

The sharks “hone in” on the similar sounds, Paparo added.

Paparo also suggested people should avoid swimming near seals, which are prey for great white sharks. That’s not often a problem around Long Island as seals are more prevalent in Massachusetts.

Taking measures like avoiding swimming in murky waters will “increase the odds of not encountering them,” Paparo said.

A range of sharks swim around the waters of Long Island and can include sand tigers, dusky and sandbar sharks.

“We do have mako, blue, thresher, southern, black tip, spinner, scalloped hammerhead and smooth hammerhead,” Paparo said.

Paparo added that the numbers of bites this year — five so far — are still infrequent, especially compared with injuries people sustain in car accidents or other activities.

The first is of a spinner shark swimming among a school of bunker. Photo from Chris Paparo

After four confirmed shark bites in the last three weeks on the south shore of Long Island, state and local authorities are actively monitoring swimming areas for these apex predators, with lifeguards, helicopters and drones on the lookout for a variety of sharks.

A sandbar shark with a satellite tag. Photo from Chris Paparo

“As New Yorkers and visitors alike head to our beautiful Long Island beaches to enjoy the summer, our top priority is their safety,” Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said in a statement. “We are taking action to expand patrols for sharks and protect beachgoers from potentially dangerous situations.”

Earlier this month, a lifeguard was engaged in a safety exercise at Smith Point beach when a shark bit him in the chest. A paddle boarder, meanwhile, was bitten by a shark in Smith Bay on Fire Island.

Responding to the potential threat of interactions between swimmers and sharks, Hochul added several safety measures. Park Police boats will patrol waters around the island, while federal, state and county partnerships will share resources and information about shark sightings and better support to identify sharks in the area.

State park safety guidelines will suspend swimming after a shark sighting so the shoreline can be monitored with drones. Swimming may resume at least an hour after the last sighting.

Shark researchers said these predatory fish have always been around Long Island.

The southern side of Long Island likely has more species of shark than the north.

“The Atlantic Ocean, on the south shore of Long Island, has seen a notable increase in shark activity and sightings over the last two years,” a spokesman for Gov. Hochul explained in an email. The Long Island Sound, on the north shore, “has sharks but not this level of activity.”

The three most common sharks around Long Island are the sandbar shark, the dusky shark and the sand tiger shark, said Christopher Paparo, Southampton Marine Science Center manager at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University.

Shark expert Dr. Robert Hueter and his team were tagging and gathering data on great white sharks in 2021 in Nova Scotia. Photo fromOCEARCH/ Chris Ross.

Conservation success

The increase in shark populations around the island is a “conservation success story,” particularly because sharks around the world are on the decline.

“We have something special in New York,” Paparo said.

From the 1950s until the 1970s, sharks around the area were heavily fished to the point where the populations declined precipitously.

At the same time, cleaning up the waters around Long Island by reducing ocean dumping and enforcing regulations has made it possible for the sharks and the fish they hunt, such as bunker, to recover.

“The habitat has improved and it can house more sharks in the summertime” than earlier, said Dr. Robert Hueter, chief scientist at OCEARCH, a global nonprofit organization collecting unprecedented data on sharks to help return the oceans to balance and abundance.

“Finally, a good story in marine conservation and a return of our oceans to health and abundance,” Hueter added.

While shark attacks generate considerable headlines, the threat from these marine fish is considerably less than it is for other dangers, such as driving to the beach, which produces far more injuries due to car accidents.

Last year, Paparo said, fewer than 100 shark attacks occurred throughout the world.

“I understand the fear of sharks,” driven in part by movies about them, Paparo said. But “people aren’t afraid of their cars” and they aren’t as focused on drownings, even though about 4,000 people drown in a typical year in the United States.

Hueter said he typically cringes around the Fourth of July holiday because that week is often the height of the beach season, when the larger number of people in habitats where sharks live can lead to bites.

More often than not, the damage sharks around Long Island inflict on humans involves bites, rather than attacks.

“Long Island is becoming the new Florida,” Hueter said. In Florida, people are bitten on their ankles or hands, as small to mid-sized sharks are not interested in people, he added.

While sharks have increased in numbers around Long Island, so have marine mammals, such as whales. On a recent morning last week, Paparo saw three humpback whales before he came to work.

People hunted whales, just as they did sharks, through the 70s, causing their numbers to decline.

Shark expert Dr. Robert Hueter and his team were tagging and gathering data on great white sharks in 2021 in Nova Scotia. Photo fromOCEARCH/ Chris Ross.

Measures to lower risk

People concerned about sharks can take several steps to reduce the risk of coming into contact with them.

Residents and guests should try not to swim at dawn and dusk when sharks typically feed more often.

Additionally, swimmers who encounter a school of bunker, also known as Atlantic menhaden, should avoid the area, as sharks might mistake a person as a larger and slower swimming part of such a school.

Sea birds hovering over an area may be an indication of schooling bunker, a Hochul spokesman explained.

While it’s less likely here than in Cape Cod, seal colonies are a potential threat, as they can attract adult great white sharks. Long Island has become home to some juvenile great white sharks, which are about 4 feet in length.

The governor’s office also encouraged people to swim in lifeguarded areas and with a buddy.

If a shark bites, experts suggest getting out of the water. A swimmer can try to fend off a shark by hitting it in the nose. People should also avoid swimming near areas where others are fishing.

Shark bites, Hueter said, require medical attention because of the damaged skin and the bacteria from shark teeth.

“You want to get good medical help to clean the wound” if a shark bites, Hueter said.

Still rebuilding

Hueter and Paparo added that the number of sharks still hasn’t reached the same levels as they had been decades ago.

“We do have some healthy shark populations,” Hueter said. “Others are still rebuilding. We are not even close to what they used to be if you go back before the overfishing in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Alexandra Smith on the trail. She hopes to beat 18 minutes going into next year’s cross country season. Photo from SCCC

Her first year in college, Shoreham’s own Alexandra Smith cannot be stopped. In just one season at Suffolk she beat her own record four times in a row.

2019 Champions from left, head coach Matt French Ashley Czarnecki, Nina Bonetti, Taylor McClay, Allaura Dashnaw, Yasmeen Araujo, Alexandra Smith, Stephanie Cardalena, Assistant Coach Miles Lewis. Photo from SCCC

Suffolk County Community College Women’s Cross Country team won its third national title led by Smith, who claimed the individual title in 18:34.03. Smith logged the third fastest time by a female individual champion in meet history and was named National Women’s Cross Country Athlete of the year from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association and National Junior College Athletic Association, Division III. She is SCCC’s first-ever to win that recognition in women’s cross country. 

The Sharks ended up with 27 points, the second fewest scored by a winning team since 2010, which was also 64 points less than the runner-up.

Cross country head coach Matt French said the team this year has been one of the best, with them taking on a mission to hit milestones, and then reaching those goals.

Smith, he said, has been one of the best the school has seen, managing to beat her own personal best four times this season. 

“Once she got that bug, she just wanted to run faster,” French said. 

The runner, whose going to SCCC looking toward a career in special education, said she felt great this season, and though she hoped to break 18 minutes this semester, she still has three other semesters to make it there. She added she hopes to break her high school record of 4:49 in the 1,500 in the next year and a half.

“It was great to come to Suffolk and have such a great team and coach,” she said. 

French also took home top coaching honors as 2019 National Women’s XC Coach of the Year from the USTFCCCA and NJCAA Division III.

by -
0 1566
Above, a Greenland shark with the parasite copepod Ommatokoita elongata on its eye. The parasite destroys the corneal tissue, rendering the shark partially blind. Stock photo

By Elof Axel Carlson

I was reading an article on the Greenland shark, Somniosus microcephalus, and I thought of my only other encounter with a shark (other than a slab on my dinner plate). That was when I was getting my bachelor’s at NYU and taking comparative anatomy.

One organism we dissected was the dogfish shark, Squalus acanthias. The sharks have no bones. They have a skeleton made of cartilage. The difficult challenge for my classmates and me was dissecting the inner ear within the cartilaginous capsule encasing it. I learned to respect surgeons, especially those working on the ears (like correcting otosclerosis of its calcareous deposits without breaking the coated set of bones that normally help us hear).

I learned that most sharks give birth to live young (puppies) rather than depositing eggs. Sex for sharks is a bit of a contortion act since the male (usually smaller than the female) uses one of its modified tail fins in lieu of a penis to inseminate a female. I also learned that they are quite ancient in the evolutionary scale, dominating the seas in the mid-Devonian era (about 390 million years ago) before the bony fishes out did them in adaptability.

That brings us back to S. microcephalus, which translates from its Latin name to an insulting “sluggish shark with a tiny head.” As its common name implies, these fish are located mostly in the Arctic circle and are spared an endangered species status as they are toxic to humans (and other predators) because they accumulate trimethylamine oxide in their tissues.

Inuits and others who live in that frosty region have learned to treat and ferment the fish so it is not as toxic; but even as a delicacy for the adventurous, it is not a popular item for those who catch fish for a living.

The sharks grow very slowly (less than half an inch a year) and swim at a leisurely pace of about one foot per hour. In addition to accumulating the toxic trimethylamine oxide, they also accumulate large amounts of urea in their tissues, which also contributes to their unsavory reputation among gourmets.

To make matters worse, the Greenland sharks are pretty ugly because they have luminescent parasites (copepod Ommatokoita elongata) that attach to their eyelids and use this to attract prey to their mouths. Although an opportunistic predator with much of their diet being decayed meat from drowned tetrapods and dead fish — they can swallow the floating carcass of a caribou — the sharks have been known to ambush and eat sleeping seals.

So why would such a revolting creature be attractive to research biologists? The answer is surprising. Greenland sharks are the longest lived vertebrates, living to be about 392 (272-512) years from radioactive carbon dating of crystals that are deposited in lenses of their eyes, which are layered like onions. They become sexually mature at about age 150 and attain a full mature adult size of 18 to 21 feet in length.

There is an irony to some of life’s winners of desired traits. Want to live as long as a Greenland shark? OK, make yourself toxic and marinate in urea. Try visiting your relatives at a speedy swimming rate of one foot per hour. Want to be cancer free no matter how old you get? OK, be like a naked mole rat (if you like subterranean life and ant hill type living).

We admire diversity among the millions of species of living things; but in addition to the instructive lessons of life (“Go to the ant thou sluggard”), we can find irony and humor in the knowledge we gain.

Elof Axel Carlson is a distinguished teaching professor emeritus in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Stony Brook University.

By Kevin Redding

As the nation sinks its teeth into another annual Shark Week on Discovery Channel, local fishermen from across the North Shore reflected on their experiences and close calls with the predators of the sea.

Capt. James Schneider, James Joseph Fishing in Huntington

Capt. James Schneider wrestles with a mako shark. Photo from James Schneider

I was giant bluefin tuna fishing on our smaller, 38-foot boat around 2004 and we were off Nantucket and we pulled up on a whale. Usually the tuna swim with the whales, they eat the same bait. And we saw what looked like giant tuna and we threw a bunch of bait into the water and put three lines in. All three rods went off at the same time and we hooked up what we thought were three tuna fish at the same time for a minute. Within 10 seconds of the hookup, the first fish jumped behind the boat … it was a 650-pound mako shark that got in between the other two lines. The other “tuna fish” were a 250-pound blue shark and another mako. We were using monofilament leaders for the tuna, and the mako came down on the line and snapped the leader (fishing line). Then the shark jumped above our eye level and cleared the water 12 to 15 feet, leaped completely out of the water trying to throw the hook out of its mouth. The other one we … caught it, after an hour and a half, it was a mako that was nearly 700 pounds, snagged in the dorsal, he’s swimming, felt a lot like a tuna fish. We put it in the boat and it was on the line for about an hour and half and then we gutted it and found about nine, full-sized bluefish intact in stomach, each weighing between 8 and 13 pounds.

Another time, I was out 17 miles south of Montauk with my son when he was 8 years old. I wanted to catch my son his first shark. We went out, my son caught a mako shark pretty early in the trip. Within 20 minutes of him hanging the shark from the stern of the boat, I noticed a giant shape coming toward the boat and it was a great white shark, about 17-18 feet long, probably close to 3,000 pounds — about the width of a Volkswagen. It was cruising with such agility coming right to the boat and we had a little time so I asked my son, “Do you want your shark or do you want to watch the great white eat the shark?” My son quickly decided he wanted his shark to show his grandparents so we whipped the shark into the boat just in time as the great white came up to the stern.

Capt. Brett Clifford, Osprey Fishing Fleet in Port Jefferson

Take a bite out of Shark Week, Long Island edition. Photo from Brett Clifford

My 11-year-old son, Kieran, was excited to go shark fishing for the first time so he, myself and one of the first mates from the Osprey trailed my 25-foot Aquasport to Montauk last Wednesday, July 19. We launched there after catching some fluke, went out about 20 miles to the sharking grounds and we drifted for about five hours with very little action. My son got a chance to see a sea turtle, which was kind of cool. A mahi-mahi was on the lure for a couple minutes but we eventually lost him. All hope seemed lost and we brought in one line and then when Kieran was reeling in the last line, the float popped up and we weren’t sure if it was a wave or a shark. I picked up the line and felt little bumps, put the rod back in the holder as Kieran safely put his hand on the line so he could feel the bumps. He felt them and he looked up at me and then the shark took it and the line went off. He was able to feel the power of the shark and how fast it takes a line like that. We hooked the shark, put the rod in Kieran’s lap and had him start fighting it. It took him about 15 to 20 minutes to bring in about a 5-foot mako. Although it was a keeper, we clipped it and let it go. We put one more bait in the water and it was then immediately picked up by a blue shark, which we released. I’ve caught makos, blue sharks and thresher sharks before [but] nothing can compare to watching your own son’s excitement and feel the thrill of a big game fish like that for the first time, so that totally trumps any other shark experiences I’ve had.

Capt. Steve Witthuhn, Top Hook Fishing Charters in Montauk and frequenter of Cold Spring Harbor

A hammerhead shark swims right up to a boat. Photo from Steve Witthuhn

There’s a lot of bait and life out there in Montauk so it’s one of the more exceptional years for this. That’s the fishing capital of the world and you’re bound to catch something there. We had a trip Friday, July 21, where we took a father and his two boys out to an area 12 miles across Montauk Point and I saw signs of life viewing whales and dolphins in the area. There was also a sea turtle — it was like an aquarium over there. We decided to set up there and we got the baits ready, using circle hooks, and started chumming — what we call “drifting and dreaming.” You get things out there and you’re waiting for the bite and dreaming of when that shark comes into the slick and looks for the bait. Our first hit was a 150-pound blue shark and that got things rolling. The next was a 125-pound dusky.

As we’re getting another blue shark off the line, we see a big hammerhead shark swim by. Hammerheads are very finicky, sometimes they take a slab bait but normally I’ve found them to be aggressive, they want live bait. So as we hooked up a live bluefish, the bluefish got excited and started running for its life because the hammerhead was on its tail. He tore it apart. We started playing with him and put some more bluefish on the line when we saw another hammerhead come into the slick. Talk about shark-infested waters, we were in the right place at the right time. We hooked up one of the hammerheads, about a 6 or 7 footer, and we fought it for about a half hour. It ate the live bluefish and then another hammerhead appeared. Once the action starts, everybody wakes up. Once you hear that rod go “zzzzing” then everybody jumps up and wants to see what kind of shark it is. It was pretty wild.

All these sharks were caught and then released. For me as a captain, it’s more about the thrill of the catch rather than the kill of the catch. If we can respect nature then we can have a lot of fun and educate our customers. I told them, “I know Shark Week begins in a few days, but you’re experiencing something live and what it’s all about.” I’m all for respecting and preserving the resource.

Nikko Kimzin and Sam Wolf in a scene from ‘West Side Story.’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

By Charles J. Morgan

When dance master Jerome Robbins inspired Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim to come up with “West Side Story,” they in turn went to The Bard for his “Romeo and Juliet,” morphing the Guelphs and Ghibellines — that’s the Montagues and Capulets of Verona — into the street gangs, the Jets and Sharks. The “star-crossed lovers” became Tony and Maria. This gift to musical theater hit the boards at the Engeman two weeks ago, and the boards are still rattling.

Zach Trimmer and Samantha Williams in a scene from ‘West Side Story.’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro
Zach Trimmer and Samantha Williams in a scene from ‘West Side Story.’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

The entire production is built around dance. The pirouettes, arabesques and jetes were neatly comingled with the modern interpretive method to produce a mathematically perfect, yet emotionally penetrating terpsichorean feast.

At the head of all this was the choreography skills of Jeffry Denman and his two assistants Lauren Cannon and Trey Compton, who also acted as fight choreographer. This talented team gave the audience a night of dance the excellence of which your scribe has not seen in his near decade of writing “criticism.”

They say that the “devil is in the details” but not in this production. Imagine if you will a six-foot-high chain link fence running from upstage center down to stage left … suggesting urban schoolyards. This “prop” was climbed on, jumped on and over by male dancers of the Jets and Sharks in their attempts to escape … in tempo. They actually scaled the fence, landing on the other side on the beat — an incredible act of choreography.

Overall direction was in the always capable hands of Igor Goldin (“The Producers,” “Evita”). If one prescinds from the dance numbers, his blocking and interpretation efforts were carried through with exemplary professionalism.

Outstanding among the dancers were Scott Shedenhelm of the Jets and Karli Dinardo in the role of Anita. Shedenhelm was at his best in “Gee, Officer Krupke,” by far the funniest and most clever number in the show. Dinardo scored talent-wise in “America.”

The leads were handled skillfully by Zach Trimmer as Tony and Samantha Williams as Maria. Both have fittingly tender voices; he a more lyrical tenor, she a mellow, yet strong soprano. They excelled as the star-crossed lovers.

The leader of the Jets, Riff, was played by Sam Wolf who pits himself and his gang against Bernardo, played by Nikko Kimzin and his Sharks. The battles of Sharks vs. Jets is the dance armature of the play, and these two lead their factions brilliantly in dancing, acting and singing.

Among the musical numbers, the “Jet Song” really set the theme of pride and struggle. “Dance at the Gym” by the whole company brought out the animosity that almost erupted in violence. The tender “Tonight” by Wolf and Williams presented the balcony scene in all its romance. The mordant “America” that also showcased the patent talent of Ashley Perez Flanagan as Graciela, hit hard musically at the state of society in both the USA and Puerto Rico.

From left, Victoria Casillo, Tori Simeone,Samantha Williams and Ashley Perez Flanagan in a scene from ‘West Side Story.’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro
From left, Victoria Casillo, Tori Simeone,Samantha Williams and Ashley Perez Flanagan in a scene from ‘West Side Story.’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

Trimmer and Williams also performed romantically in “One Hand, One Heart.” And there was that Officer Krupke number that was most memorable.

The cast also included Mike Baerga, Josh Bates, Christian Bufford, Mark T. Cahill, Nick Casaula, Victoria Casillo, Joey Dippel, Jon Drake, Roy Flores, Eric Greengold, Joan Heeringa, Melissa Hunt, Gregory Kollarus, Leer Leary, Rick Malone, Ashley Marinelli, Kelly Methven, Kaitlin Niewoehner, Joseph Rosario, Tori Simeone and Marquez Stewart who all did a fabulous job.

Piercing live music was led by James Olmstead on keyboard with assistance from Craig Coyle; Robert Dalpiaz and Joel Levy on reeds; the indomitable Joe Boardman on trumpet with Steve Henry and Pete Auricchio; Brent Chiarello and Frank Hall on trombone; bass was Russell Brown with the reliable Josh Endlich on percussion. This ensemble was at its best in the staccato numbers of both Jets and Sharks such as “Dance at the Gym” and especially in “The Rumble.”

The Engeman spares no opposition when it produces a massive piece of entertainment like “West Side Story.”

All elements of the production including costume design by Tristan Raines, set design by DT Willis, lighting by Zack Blane and sound design by Laura Shubert were masterfully integrated into a sophisticated, articulated and authentic whole.

Many critics a few years back tried to see a “social significance” dimension latent in this show. On TV one described it as “… a slice of New York life.” Nonsense, of course. It was Shakespeare with a life of its own as true musical theater.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present evening performances of “West Side Story” on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and matinees on Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Nov. 8. Tickets are $74 on Saturday evenings, $69 all other performances. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

This version corrects the spelling of Jeffry Denman’s name.

by -
0 178
The Suffolk County Community College 2014 men’s soccer team poses for a group photo. The team finished the season 21-4 and won the school’s second National Junior College Athletic Association Division III men’s soccer national title to earn its No. 1 ranking. Photo from Suffolk County Community College

The Suffolk County Community College Men’s Soccer team is the No. 1-ranked Division III team in the nation, according to the 2015 National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason rankings.

The Sharks made it to the national championship game in 2013, falling to Herkimer County Community College, 1-0, but are two-time national champions – 2010 and 2014 – and are looking to defend the national championship, with three starters returning and a core of talented incoming freshman.

Led by head coach Frank Vertullo, who was named the Coach of the Tournament following the national championship win, the Sharks will kick-off the 2015 season on Aug. 22 at Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts.