In an article published on Thursday, Katherine Donlevy of the New York Post alleged that the recent string of shark attacks off the coast of New York recently may be the result of a bill that was passed unanimously in both the senate and assembly in 2019. The bill was signed into law by former Governor Cuomo to help stimulate the population of a baitfish called Atlantic Menhaden, also known as "Bunker" to fisherman.

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Donlevy states her reasoning for the attacks as, "Great whites and other sharks have been coming close to Long Island beaches this year to feast on a particular kind of bait fish that has been flourishing in New York waters ever since the state legislature voted unanimously to preserve it three years ago." The noted law prohibits drawstring netting of Atlantic Menhaden. Overfishing of the baitfish, that has populated New York waters, has significantly reduced the species' population in recent years. As a result, commercial and sport-fishing was effected. Hence the legislation. Bunker is a major food source for striped bass, bluefish and other important fish species that normally flourish in the waters off of New York.

schooling striped bass, underwater, Morone saxatilis
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Donlevy is alleging that the shark attacks are the fault of New York State's efforts to save this baitfish. According to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File, there were 47 unprovoked shark attacks in the United States in 2021. Prior to July of 2022 New York beaches accounted for about 1 incident/attack every 10 years. Florida and California accounted for the majority of yearly incidents.

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Until the late 1990's, the Atlantic Menhaden, or Bunker, was plentiful off the shores of New York. Yet until 2022, only once a decade, was someone was bitten off the Long Island shores. Where were the sharks in the past? Why has New York accounted for about 30% of the 2021 total United States shark attacks in a little more than 3 weeks? Why didn't all of the victims mention that they were swimming in pods of bunker?

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The Post reporter states, "The state has since tried to offset the consequences of its legislation by deploying patrol boats, drones and helicopters on the South Shore along with more public outreach on the dangers of the marine predators." The "consequences" of the legislation of 2019 are increased amounts of "Bunker." Great White Sharks have been breeding in the waters off of Montauk and Block Island long before 2019. The return of Humpback Whales, seals, sharks and dolphins off the Long Island coast began almost three decades ago, following New York City's ban on dumping garbage into the Atlantic in 1992.

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To suggest that the state government is at fault for shark attacks when legislators are trying improve hunting and fishing efforts in New York, seems to be a political reach. Maybe they should pass a law to kill the sharks? It would probably be safer than saving a baitfish like Bunker. It is unlikely that Katherine Dunlevy has ever had the pleasure of walking those sandy Long Island beaches, surfcasting into a tremendous pod of jumping bunker and landing a 20-plus pound striped bass. Then going home and feeding your family some delicious freshly caught New York fish. I personally have done that for decades.

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