In the USA, marine biologists are researching the “nursery of the Great White Sharks” and developing proposals to protect the animals

White Shark Nursery

Even the mighty Great White Wharks started out small. The “White Shark Nursery” research project in Montauk Point (USA) takes a close look at the “nursery” of these animals. This is where many white sharks spend their first years of life. As babies, they are about 1.40 metres tall; an adult Great White Shark can grow to between three and six metres.

When an alarming number of small White Sharks died in the nets of fishermen in Montauk Bay, the marine biologists of the O'Seas Conservation Foundation, led by Dr Craig O'Connell, started the first systematic studies on the young sharks in the bay.
Since 2017, Sharkproject has been supporting Craig O'Connell's research on the “nursery” of Great White Sharks. The aim is to gather more knowledge about the life of the young Great White Sharks: At what depths do the animals stay and at what time of day? What do they eat? And how long do they stay in the “nursery, Montauk Bay”?

Craig O'Connell's team uses special underwater cameras, so-called “Baited Remote Underwater Camera Systems” (BRUVS). These are installed near prey bait and film what swims by. So far, it is known that smooth dogfish are among the most important prey of White Sharks. “If we know more about the sharks' behaviour and about their preferred prey, we can better protect great white sharks,” says Eleanor Spencer from SHARKPROJECT. “That's why we support Craig O'Connell's research.”

Background Information about the Project

Aims

  • Developing targeted protection measures that take effect exactly when the White Sharks are in the bay.
  • Collect more detailed information about the Smooth Dogfish in the bay. They are the main prey of the Great White Sharks.
  • Develop targeted protection measures for Smooth Dogfish based on the knowledge gained. If you protect the prey, you also protect the Great White Sharks.

Location

Atlantic Coast of the USA
Montauk Point, New York

Duration

  • A continuation study will continue the results of the first research phase for another three years until 2024.
  • An interim status of the project is expected by summer/autumn 2021.
  • Further, funding by Sharkproject is initially planned until the end of 2021. There may be an extension.

Scientists

  • Dr Craig O'Connell, marine biologist, founder and director of the O'Seas Conservation Foundation in Montauk Bay, USA. Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
  • Julia Crews, marine biologist, Coastal Carolina University
  • Juliet Gressle, Marine Biologist, O'Seas Conservation Foundation

Links

www.oseasfdn.org/projects

The website of the “O'Seas Conservation Foundation” informs about the research projects, the youth camps and the objectives of marine biologist Craig O'Connell and his team.

Conflicts with the fishermen

Unfortunately, the cameras are stolen again and again. In one season, for example, eight of these cameras with a total value of 8,000 dollars were lost.
This repeatedly sets back the work of Craig O'Connell and his team.

Conflicts between fishermen, who fear for their income, and conservationists occur again and again. Even though understanding is often not easy, the “O'Seas Conservation Foundation” continues to rely on dialogue with local fishermen. It is also important for Sharkproject that both sides find an understanding for each other's points of view.

As Craig O'Connell reports, progress has been made in recent years. “There is more and more understanding among the fishermen that sharks are important for a balanced ecosystem and, in the long run, for more fish in the bay,” says the marine biologist.

Technical Information

BRUVS

Since 2013, the O'Seas Conservation Foundation has been working with about 14 to 20 different BRUVS : underwater cameras are fixed in open water near a prey lure from May to November in Montauk Bay in the US state of New York. What passes by, in this case what swims by, is filmed like a wild camera on land. The cameras are used daily, up to 16 hours a day. The sharks can be identified by the markings and scars on their dorsal fin.

The water depth, the water temperature, the moon phase or the tide are always measured as well. The aim is to find out when and where the sharks can be found. It is also important to know which environmental conditions the sharks prefer.

Project History

SHARKPROJECT has been funding Craig O'Connell's research in Montauk Bay since 2017

The first scientific results were published in the “Marine Technology Society Journal” in February 2021

Contacts have been established with the local Fisheries and Environmental Protection Agency 

With the Corona crisis, research became much more difficult. Part of the research is funded by youth camps, which have not been able to take place for months

SHARKPROJECT has therefore sought continued funding for the project even during the Corona crisis. Currently, (as of May 2021), work is underway to pick up where the research left off before the Corona Crisis

May 2021: The New York Heritage Program (New York State Environmental Protection Agency) has given greater priority to the protection of white sharks in Montauk Bay and intends to use the data from the Nursery Project for systematic sighting monitoring of white sharks in Montauk Bay in the future