Great South Bay was found to harbor a sand tiger shark nursery by scientists working with the WCS New York Aquarium. The efforts of all those involved in the project spanning several years has led to the discovery of the sand tiger shark nursery just in the estuary of the Long Island southern shore.
Sand tiger sharks may look like ferocious predators. However, their looks and size is certainly deceiving as the fish are harmless, posing no danger to humans. Quite to the contrary, overfishing has depleted population numbers to the point where the sand tiger shark is now listed a species of concern according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. The fact that the Great South Bay was found to harbor a sand tiger shark nursery is great news for the species.
Only a few other sand tiger shark nurseries have been discovered in recent years, with one of them harbored in Massachusetts. The scientific team working with the WCS New York Aquarium used acoustic tags to monitor sand tiger sharks as they circle their habitat. The Great South Bay nursery is only a remote and safe place for the youth. Born somewhere else, these acoustically tracked marine animals were found to return to the Great South Bay nursery yearly. John Dohlin, the VP and Director of the WSC New York Aquarium stated that for conservationists working on such projects, the discovery of the scientific team brings great news. Both sand tiger sharks and other species common to the New York Bight can now be more easily observed thanks to being acoustically tracked.
A hopeful outcome of the project according to Dohlin is that:
“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”.
The need to establish whether sand tiger sharks were forming a nursery in Great South Bay appeared in 2011. Back then, an image of a young shark found dead near one of the marinas offered the first clue. Fishing boats and anglers around had revealed that for years the sand tiger sharks were coming there repeatedly, rapidly becoming a resource. Following this information, the scientific team tracked the area and attached acoustic trackers to the sand shark tigers found here. Over the years they observed that the marine animals were indeed returning to Great South Bay, in the exact location. This behavior is dubbed site fidelity. Overall, 15 individuals returned constantly to the same estuary.
The data collected will be used in further studies meant to understand the migration behavior of the sand tiger sharks, as well as their habitat preferences and needs. Since 1997, fishing sand tiger sharks in both state and federal waters is banned. The Great South Bay sand tiger shark nursery makes no exception.
Photo Credits: Flickr