Sharks Just Spotted off NYC: How Often Are Sharks Seen Around The City?

Written by Colby Maxwell
Updated: August 21, 2023
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Sharks. Even having a “week” about them is too much interaction for most people. Still, sharks aren’t going anywhere anytime soon! Anywhere there are people and water, there will inevitably be sharks. New York City is one of the most “peopled” places in the United States. Most people don’t associate NYC with the beach or sharks, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t around. Today, we will look at the Big Apple and learn if any… irregular-sized bites have been taken out! How often are sharks seen around NYC? Let’s find out!

Do Sharks Live Near NYC?

Bull Shark at Pinnacles, Mozambique

Sharks are found in most of the waterways and around coastlines near NYC.

©Fiona Ayerst/Shutterstock.com

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Yes, sharks live all around NYC because NYC is surrounded by water! Anywhere in the world with oceans will inevitably be home to sharks.

Sharks are a staple of almost every single body of water in the world, and the waters surrounding NYC are no different. Manhattan Island, the home of icons like the Empire State Building, Times Square, and the One World Trade Center, is totally surrounded by water! To the east of the island is the East River (although it’s not really a river), a river that connects the Long Island Sound in the north to the New York /New Jersey Bight to the south. Since it’s connected to a body of salt water on either side, it’s primarily saltwater itself. Sharks are often seen in the East River, and attacks have happened before.

The other boroughs of New York are also prone to sharks. Brooklyn and Queens, for example, both touch the East River and larger bodies of water directly connected to the ocean. Brooklyn borders the Upper, Lower, and Jamaica Bays, while Queens borders Little Neck, Manhasset, and Hempstead Bays. All the bays listed are saltwater and have ocean access, meaning there are sharks! To the north, the Bronx is connected to the East River and the Long Island Sound, and to the south, Staten Island is bordered by Raritan and Lower Bays. Anywhere you go, ocean!

Do Sharks Attack People in NYC?

Sand tiger shark

There are very few recorded shark attacks in New York City.

©Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE / CC BY-SA 2.0 – License

Shark attacks, as a general rule, are rare. In NYC, they are extremely rare.

Brooklyn has experienced four attacks (including Coney Island), with incidents occurring in 1860, 1874, 1878, and 1916. Manhattan has had two incidents, one in 1642 and another in 1864. Queens has had four attacks, with the incidents occurring in 1909, 1950, 1953, and 2017. Staten Island has had two attacks, one in the early 1800s and another in 1898.

Generally, sharks will attack people that are isolated during dusk or dawn, their primary feeding times. In NYC, there aren’t a lot of shark species that will actively hunt humans, especially near the shoreline. Across the entire state of New York, there have been 20 shark attacks since recording began in 1837.

Recently, sharks have gotten a little more attention in the city because a bite occurred, the first one since the 1950s. The most recent attack occurred on Rockaway Beach when a 65-year-old woman was swimming near Beach 59th Street. The time before that? A man had harpooned a shark and was actively provoking it.

What Kind of Sharks Live in NYC?

tagged great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, swimming in the blue waters of the Neptune Islands, South Australia

Great white sharks live around the coastal areas of NYC, although attacks from any large predatory sharks are extremely rare.

©Alessandro De Maddalena/Shutterstock.com

A few types of sharks live in the area, although loan sharks are probably the most dangerous of them all!

Here’s a quick list of the ones that are the most dangerous:

  • Sand tiger shark: A large shark with a big mouth and scary teeth, but they’re relatively docile and rarely attack humans.
  • Tiger shark: A shark with a reputation for being aggressive and opportunistic. It can eat almost anything, including humans.
  • Dusky shark: A sleek and fast shark with a grayish-brown color and a white belly. It is vulnerable to extinction due to overfishing and habitat loss.
  • Spinner shark: A slender shark that leaps out of the water and spins in the air while hunting for prey. It is not dangerous to humans unless provoked.
  • White shark: The largest predatory fish in the world and more commonly known as a “great” white shark. They will attack humans, but very rarely.
  • Bull shark: A stout shark with a broad, flat snout and aggressive tendencies. It can survive in salt and fresh water and has been found far up rivers and in lakes. It is considered one of the most dangerous sharks to humans because of its coastal distribution and ability to migrate up rivers.

There are way more species than in the immediate NYC area, but if you’re worried about being hurt by a shark, it’s likely going to be one of these. Again, shark attacks in NYC are extremely rare, and they aren’t something you should go out of your way to plan around. Just be smart!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/TomasSereda


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About the Author

Colby is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering outdoors, unique animal stories, and science news. Colby has been writing about science news and animals for five years and holds a bachelor's degree from SEU. A resident of NYC, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone about what birds he saw at his local birdfeeder.

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