If you’ve ever taken a dip in Long Island Sound, you have the right to brag that you have swum with sharks. Yes, there are sharks in the Sound. Just last week, in fact, the crew of The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk’s research vessel Oceanic brought up two smooth dogfish sharks during a trawl.
While the claim of swimming with sharks may make you sound tough, swimming with these sharks doesn’t pack much street cred. They are, after all, named after man’s best friend. Like their canine namesake, dogfish got their name for their tendency to hunt their prey in packs.
They are also commonly referred to as sand sharks, but don’t confuse them with sand tiger sharks, or even sandbar sharks. (They don’t like that much.)
There are many dogfish sharks in Long Island Sound, but they also can be found all along the East Coast, even as far south as Brazil and Argentina. During the summer, the Sound presents the ideal conditions for these animals, which prefer the shallower waters close to shore.
Being seasonal migrators, smooth dogfish usually move south in the fall and return in the spring. The two sharks that came up aboard the Oceanic last week appeared to be young – probably born earlier this year – and are likely about to make their first journey south to winter in warmer waters.
Even if you do encounter a dogfish shark in the Sound, sharing the water with one poses no danger to humans. They are a smaller species – adults can grow to be about 5 feet long – and have small, blunt teeth. Not exactly engineered for chomping down on boogie-boarders, their teeth are designed to crush extremely hard prey, like mollusks, lobsters and crabs.
Even if you’re still a bit skeptical about sharing the water, the odds are in your favor. There hasn’t been a shark attack in the Sound in more than 50 years!
Aside from the smooth dogfish, several other shark species are commonly found in the Sound – sandbar sharks, spiny dogfish and sand tiger sharks (which are the stars of the Aquarium’s big Open Ocean exhibit).
There’s still time to see a dogfish shark for yourself! The Maritime Aquarium’s public study cruises onto Long Island Sound continue through October, departing at 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Chartered outings also are available for schools and Scouts. Get all the details here. What will come up when you come out with us?