A group of juvenile sand tiger sharks has been spotted in NYC’s Great South Bay, thus giving hope that this endangered species may be making a comeback.
The announcement was made by experts at the longest running aquarium across the United States: the one located in Coney Island, Brooklyn.
Back in 2011, New York Aquarium staff was forwarded a photo showing a dead sand tiger shark, which had been caught in the Great South Bay.
It was soon found out, after several discussions with boaters and fishermen, that numerous young animals pertaining to this species had been snared in the past, after being glimpsed in local waters.
As a result, for the last four years, researchers from this institution, affiliated with the Wildlife Conservation Society, have been equipping sharks with electronic tags, in order to monitor population trends more carefully, as part of the New York Seascape Program.
Throughout this period, just a handful of grounds populated by juvenile tiger sharks had been found thanks to acousto-magnetic surveillance devices, which is why New York Aquarium staff is absolutely thrilled with this find.
Apparently, the marine predators, which are born live, in southern waters, have migrated and come together in a place which is teeming with humans, several activities being carried out in the bay, either related to recreation and leisure(boating, fishing etc.) or to profit-making enterprises (such as dredging).
However, it must be said that the discovery of this new shark nursery, including animals aged between a few months and 5 years, shouldn’t be a source of alarm for locals, given the fact that the apparently menacing species is actually virtually harmless, and doesn’t display any sort of aggressive behavior.
Actually, the reason why juvenile sand tiger sharks are gathering here is probably linked to their desire to escape much larger and voracious predators, since the immediate proximity of the shore, coupled with the Great South Bay’s hustle and bustle discourage more significantly sized species from getting too close.
In addition, it’s highly likely that the bay also provides the juvenile sharks with an abundant food supply, which generates “site fidelity”. In other words, the area attracts them summer after summer, and their number has reached 15 for now, 10 of them having been tagged in 2015.
As explained by Jon Dohlin, director and vice-president of the New York Aquarium, at the moment, absence of predators and rich sources of nourishment seem like the most logical explanation for the emergence of this unlikely nursery.
However, further studies should be conducted in order to determine with certainty if the shoreline indentation is indeed seen as a safe haven capable of allowing the young sharks to thrive, or if other advantages take precedence instead.
Currently, sand tiger sharks are listed as a “species of concern”, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. They are also considered critically endangered off the coast of Australia and Argentina, and classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Overfishing has caused their population to dwindle, which is why in 1997 this practice has been banned across the United States. Even so, it’s still quite difficult to restore sand tiger sharks numbers, given the fact that every sexually mature female shark can only produce around 1 to 2 pups in a period of 2 years.
Therefore, wildlife conservationists will be rejoicing about this newly found sand tiger shark nursery, which gives them the opportunity to raise greater awareness about this threatened species, and to accelerate measures meant to protect these animals from extinction.
Image Source: Flickr