Researchers Discover Great White Shark Nursery off Long Island

Identifying the location of the pupping grounds of the mysterious sharks could lead to habitat protection.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Oct 8, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

In late August, research nonprofit OCEARCH embarked on a three-week expedition in the waters off Montauk, New York, finding and tagging nine great white shark infants just a few miles off the Long Island coast.

According to their tracking data, those nine great whites have largely remained in the area, the researchers said, leading the team to declare the region a great white shark nursery—the first one discovered in the western Atlantic Ocean.

“The tracking confirms they’re in fact hanging around this area, feeding and growing,” Robert Hueter, the OCEARCH expedition’s chief scientist, told The Associated Press.

In recent years, scientists have begun to study the waters around Montauk Point as well as those as far north as Cape Cod and as far south as New Jersey for their potential as a regional white shark nursery—similar to the better-studied sites off coastal California, Mexico, and Australia.

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OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer said the discovery could lead to restrictions on human activity around the nursery to protect the sharks.

“This is a historic moment and the first step in revealing the great white shark pupping ground,” Fischer said in a statement. “It’s this kind of scientific data that will help us collectively make more informed decisions about how to protect this incredible species.”

While previous research and documentaries have covered the exploits and hunting prowess of adult great white sharks, little is known about the predators in their youth. Great whites have never been documented giving birth or breeding. The sharks are also capable of traveling great distances even at a young age, making identifying breeding and nursing grounds difficult.

Hueter said the OCEARCH team will be returning to the northwest Atlantic in coming years to continue studying newborn and mature white sharks.

“The stuff we’re doing is groundbreaking,” he said. “It simply hasn’t been done out here.”