Ocearch Seeks Great White Shark Nursery Off Long Island

The environmental research organization Ocearch has set its sights on Long Island, hoping to prove that an area known as the New York Bight will prove to be an elusive breeding ground for great white sharks.

The organization, founded by TV host Chris Fischer, has engaged in some 25 different research voyages in the past, during which they tag and document sharks of various species, allowing both scientists and the general public to follow their movements. Their work has been wildly successful, as Fox 5 notes, giving researchers access to unprecedented data while dramatically shifting the public’s perception of white sharks.

Most recently, the group has embarked upon a two-week-long expedition to the New York Bight. Stretching from Cape May, N.J. in the south to Montauk Point on Long Island, the vast swath of ocean boasts over two dozen native species of shark, as the New York Times notes. It is also home to a dramatic number of juvenile sharks, giving rise to the premise that it might be a breeding ground of sorts for various species, including great whites.

Tobey Curtis, a fishery management specialist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, is serving as one of the lead scientists on Ocearch’s recent expedition. When he, along with other researchers, compiled a list of great white shark sightings in the Northern Atlantic stretching back roughly two centuries, they came to the startling conclusion that over two thirds of all newborn white sharks spotted in the region were found in the New York Bight.

Great white pupping grounds have previously been documented in Eastern Australia, South Africa and Southern California. No such nursery site is known in the North Atlantic, however there are convincing reasons why the New York Bight may be one such area. Juvenile sharks are particularly vulnerable, and the bight offers shelter in the form of shallow waters that are uninviting to larger predators. In addition, food sources that are acceptable to juvenile white sharks are plentiful in the region, making it an all but ideal site for an expectant great white to give birth.

Such was the theory advanced last year when Mary Lee, a large female white shark tagged by Ocearch off Cape Cod, moved into the New York Bight during the early spring. As the Inquisitr reported at the time, several researchers postulated that the shark, who became an overnight sensation on social media, might have traveled northward to give birth.

Proving that the New York Bight is a great white shark nursery is just one more step toward conserving the species, Ocearch’s ultimate goal. Despite their relative fame in the animal kingdom and the public’s fascination with them, little was known about the predators’ migratory patterns or individual habits before Ocearch and the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy came along. Now, their research is lifting the veil on a species that has made a dramatic rebound in the North Atlantic, even though they may remain vulnerable to exploitation.

By documenting and studying not only the number of juvenile sharks that inhabit the New York Bight, but also their behavior, habitat patterns, and travels over time, researchers and scientists will be able to make use of Ocearch’s data to suggest more effective conservation plans and legislation, which will help to ensure that great white sharks maintain their position as apex predators and balance keepers of the Atlantic.

[Photo by Elias Levy – Own Work via Flickr | Cropped and Resized | CC BY 2.0]