Shark Pup Nursery Discovered Off Montauk Coast

A Shark Named Montauk
Photo: Courtesy OCEARCH New York

Nine shark pups were recently tagged off the coast of Montauk by a team of researchers, confirming suspicions that a great white shark birthing site exists in Long Island’s waters. This is the only known great white shark pup nursery in the northern Atlantic. Among the first two tagged were Montauk, a 50-pound, 4-foot female white shark; and Hudson, a 67-pound, 5-foot male white shark. The others were named Manhattan, Paumanok, Gratitude, Gotham, Brunswick, Hampton and Teddy. Watching the migratory patterns and behaviors of the baby whites will help scientists understand more about these animals.

“The presence of these apex predators is a good sign of the ecological health of our local ocean,” said Dr. Merry Camhi, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) New York Seascape Program.

Researchers from WCS, National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) Fisheries, Southampton Schools, Florida Atlantic University, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Stony Brook University were recently part of the three-week expedition off the coast of Montauk, with the goal of obtaining data to further the understanding of sharks in the Atlantic Ocean, including their ecology, physiology and behavior. Specifically, the researchers hoped to tag juvenile white sharks, as very little is known about their migratory patterns in the Northern Atlantic.

“We’ve learned a lot about the adult sharks in recent years, but the pups are still a complete mystery,” said Tobey Curtis, lead scientist and Fisheries Manager at NOAA Fisheries. “Tagging these baby white sharks will help us better understand how essential Long Island waters are for their survival.”

Prior to the start of the exhibition, there was suspicion that a great white shark pup nursery existed in our local waters, based on the migratory patters of five adult great white sharks previously tagged by OCEARCH, an organization dedicated to researching and generating information about important marine species. This was OCEARCH’s first time hosting a trip in New York waters.

“The waters off Long Island are the only known hot spot for baby white sharks in the North Atlantic,” Curtis announced prior to the expedition. “White sharks and other species rely on New York’s productive coastal waters for the first years of their lives. Understanding where, when and how these sharks use this area can help us better predict how human activities might be impacting them.”

In addition to being tagged, the team collected tissue, blood, muscle and fin clip samples from the sharks. These samples will be used to learn much more about shark behaviors, including examination of fine and broad-scale movements, habitat use, site fidelity, residency and feeding behavior; as well as allow scientists to learn more about their reproduction.

Prior to the expedition, OCEARCH noted that many Long Islanders are unaware that great white sharks lurk just off the coast of the south shore’s beaches. But the organization hopes to change the perception of great whites from one of fear, to one of fascination and curiosity.

“The data coming from these sharks will help us understand the ecosystem off New York and manage the area toward a balanced, abundant future,” says Chris Fisher, who led the expedition. Eventually, the data collected will be used in helping to assist with policy decisions.

Islanders who want to learn more can follow the baby shark Montauk on Twitter, @SharkMontauk and Hudson at @Shark_Hudson. As their fins breaks the surface, the satellite tag will transmit their location.

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