When most people think of sharks and their habitats they tend to think of places such as Australia or the Mexican Coast. However, turns out that sharks are quite happy to live in practically any body of water, including the Great South Bay in Long Island. Researchers have recently discovered a thriving nursery of Tiger Sharks in New York, and it’s quite an important discovery.
Tiger Sharks are extremely slow when it comes to breeding, which is part of the reason they became a protected species in America. The US National Marine Fisheries service labelled them a “species of concern” back in 1997, which means that it’s against the law to catch them in both federal and state waters. However, it’s not the catching of these sharks that is the worry, but more the slow breeding that is causing a concern for marine specialists. The reason behind this is due to what is called “intrauterine cannibalism”; effectively, the strongest embryo in the womb eats the younger (and weaker siblings). Because of this it’s unlikely that Tiger Shark females will give birth to more than two pups over the course of two years. This discovery of a nursery in Long Island means that scientists and researchers can now lend a helping hand to the recovery of these sharks.
Scientists have had an incline that Tiger Sharks were in this area for a little while, when a young one washed up at a local marina. It was then discovered that fishermen were often catching juveniles around Great South Bay, which gave the researchers a better idea of the activity in the area. They then managed to catch and tag some of the young Tiger Sharks, so that they could track their movements. This tracking enabled them to discover that Great South Bay in Long Island was actually a nursery for the juveniles, with around two-thirds regularly swimming back to the same section of the bay.
Many people consider sharks to be dangerous, which is one of the reasons they’re in so much danger. However, despite Tiger Sharks looking pretty ominous, there has never been any human casualties reported at the hands (or should we say fins) of these creatures. They can grow up to around 3 metres in length and their teeth look slightly daunting, but they’re slow and gentle; much preferring a fishy dinner to a human one. With the discovery of the nursery in New York, scientists can now use this data to better protect this species. The threat of overfishing could be reduced by keeping a close eye on the nursery, and learning how best to protect this species of concern.
This is a vitally important discovery for the protection of Tiger Sharks, and for researchers. Being able to understand this species better will enable scientists to prevent overfishing and increase the numbers of this gentle shark. And, because it is so placid, there’s no risk in swimming in the waters of the Great South Bay – you may even catch a sighting or two.