The oceans of the world are large and deep, and scientists are constantly finding new surprises. One recent surprise was found on the Eastern Atlantic seaboard of the U.S., where researchers have identified a sand tiger shark nursery in Long Island’s Great South Bay.
The unusual discovery was made by researchers (led by the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium) who have been working diligently to collect information on sharks in the Great South Bay area over the last four years. The study involved the use of acoustic tags, a sonar type that permits remotely tracking marine animals in their environments. This data has made it possible for the researchers confirm a rare sand tiger shark nursery in Great South Bay on the southern shore of Long Island.
Shark experts note that just a few sand tiger shark nursery grounds have been identified to date, one a couple hundred miles south along the Atlantic coast off Massachusetts.
Sand tiger shark nursery – Surprise in Great South Bay
The large amount of data the WCS team has managed to collect about the movements of the sand tiger sharks in Great South Bay has helped them to learn more about the migratory behavior of sand tiger sharks and their habitats. The discovery of a shark nursery in Great South Bay is especially important given the sand tiger shark has been heavily overfished and is a “Species of Concern” according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service.
Of note, fishing for sand tiger sharks has been prohibited in New York state and federal waters since 1997. That is because the species has a very low reproductive rate (a female and tiger shark just has one or two pups every two years), so it will take the population quite a few years to rebuild. Experts note that identifying and protecting the nursery will greatly assist sand tiger shark recovery on the Eastern U.S> seaboard.
Keep in mind that the Great South Bay shark nursery gives juvenile sand tiger sharks from several months to five years in age with a place to feed and grow. The large numbers of juvenile and adult sharks in the area also offers protection from predators. After being born in the waters off the southeastern United States (off of the coast of the Carolinas), the juvenile sharks travel north in the spring, living the summer in New York waters before migrating back to the south in the fall.
Statements from the Wildlife Conservation Society
“The discovery of a shark nursery is fantastic news for local conservationists seeking to learn more about sharks and other species in the New York Bight,” commented Jon Dohlin, Vice President and Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium. “Through field projects and outreach efforts by the New York Aquarium and other organizations, we hope to raise awareness about our local marine environment and the need to manage our natural wonders.”
“Sand tiger shark pups are not born here but migrate from down south to spend the summers as juveniles in New York’s coastal waters,” noted Dr. Merry Camhi, Director of WCS’s local marine conservation program NY Seascape. “The acoustically tagged animals in our study will help us better understand where the sharks go, their habitat needs, and how we can better protect them.”