The idea of sharks in NYC seems a bit implausible, apart from an exhibit at the New York Aquarium perhaps and appearances in Sharknado 2: The Second One. Yet, the Twitter account @AnimalMemorial recently shared with us a video of what really does look like the fin of a shark swimming in one of the lakes in Central Park. The video was taken on April 15, 2021.

Could it be that a shark has ended up inside New York City — and inside Central Park? How would the shark have gotten there? Did someone put a baby shark into a new habitat? One of the closest recent sightings of shark was in 2019 when a great white shark ten-feet long was located a few dozen miles off New York City in Long Island Sound. He even has a name – Cabot, named after explorer John Cabot, and is tracked using GPS.

Other great white sharks have been spotted further away last year— in south Jersey and near the Hamptons. Smaller sharks, like the thresher sharks, have appeared on shore in the Rockaways, but are not threatening to humans. The return of species like sharks, whales, dolphins, sea lions, and more to the New York Harbor and the greater ecosystem is a sign of improving ocean habitat.

Whale Watching in NYC
Whales have also returned to New York harbor

But back to the Central Park Shark…We spoke to Thomas Hynes, author ofWild City: A Brief History of NYC in 40 Animals who says, “If this is a shark, it would probably be a surrendered pet. My hope is this is some other fish as I don’t think a shark would last very long in fresh water. For anyone hoping to spot sharks in the city, these apex predators are out there swimming in the lower harbor and the appropriate sounding New York Bight. Some shark experts believe this area is an ideal nursing ground for sharks and their newborns. So they are definitely out there. All the seals in New York City certainly draw them in too!”

We also contacted the Central Park Conservancy who referred us to NYC Parks, which manages all animal activity in the park. A NYC Parks spokesperson tells us that it’s not a shark: “While we cannot confirm the exact species, our best guess is that this is a large carp.”

Back in 2008, a similar-looking creature was spotted and reported by Gothamist. Similarly, at the time the Conservancy stated, “It’s likely that those fins belong to large carp (at least two feet in length). This time of year, you’ll see a lot of carp activity at the surface of the Meer.” That’s a little less exciting than having sharks in NYC, in our midst but certainly safer for the public.

Still, @AnimalMemorial remains dubious. The person who runs the account tells us “That fin is not usual at all. So that tall tale about ‘a lot of activity’ doesn’t sound right. Not this particular fish, and I showed the video to regulars and fishermen and no one had seen it before. Maybe it’s a night animal….I have walked there 100s of times, and it’s the one and only time I saw it. People who were present at that time hadn’t seen it either…Central Park people keep saying that it’s a carp, but if you Google carp for images, none has that fin. It’s very tall.” The mystery continues…

Untapped New York will be hosting two more talks in our Wild City series with writer Thomas Hynes, author of Wild City: A Brief History of NYC in 40 Animals. Tomorrow at 7 PM, join us for Wild City: Celebrity Birds and learn about the mandarin duck and more. Then in May, join us for the History of Beavers in NYC.

Wild City: Celebrity Birds of NYC