Swimming Suspended at Western Town Beaches
Shiver of Sharks Spotted in Bunker Fish Feeding Frenzy
All Southampton Town ocean beaches west of the Shinnecock Canal will be temporarily closed to swimming until further notice.
Earlier this morning town lifeguards spotted several sharks feeding on schools of bunker fish approximately 200 to 300 yards off Pike’s Beach in Westhampton. A month ago, beachgoers and bloggers captured impressive footage when the schooling fish, known officially as menhaden, were spotted at about the same distance offshore in Bridgehampton on July 15. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGqZroRQtZI
The menhaden are omnivorous filter feeders, much like oysters. Bunker fish generally feed by straining plankton and algae from the water, forming a key link in the food chain between plankton and upper level predators. As such they are an invaluable prey species for striped bass, bluefish, mackerel, flounder, tuna, and, of course, sharks. Bunker are also an important food source for egrets, ospreys, seagulls, and other East End birds.
Atlantic Menhaden generally migrate inshore during the summer and off-shore in the winter months. The juvenile and larval menhaden migrate to shore and in-land waterways through currents during summer months while they mature.
Although swimming has been restricted, the other amenities at town beaches, such as the parking lots, restrooms, and concessions remain open. Police officials and lifeguards say they will continue to monitor shark activity and provide updates as they become available.