Fifth Annual Long Island Natural History Conference






















Long Island’s Role in the Comeback of the Great White Shark

Tobey H. Curtis, NOAA – National Marine Fisheries Service and University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth

Field research on U.S. Atlantic white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) has historically been challenging due to their sparse distribution and rare occurrence.  However, the recent recovery of the white shark population, and the re-emergence of aggregation sites, has presented exciting new opportunities for field work on this iconic species. White sharks spend their summer months off the northeast U.S., mostly between New Jersey and Massachusetts.  A great deal of new research, including a variety of tagging and tracking efforts, has occurred off Cape Cod where the booming gray seal population has drawn numerous adult and sub-adult white sharks close to shore. However, there has been little research on newborn and juvenile white sharks in this region. Historical records suggest that these young white sharks are concentrated in the waters of the New York Bight, particularly the nearshore waters of Long Island’s south shore. In 2015, in cooperation with the Long Island Shark Collaboration, we became the first to attach a satellite tag to a young-of-the-year (YOY) white shark in the Atlantic. Subsequently in 2016, with the assistance of the research and education organization, OCEARCH, an additional nine YOY white sharks were tagged off Montauk, providing our first insights into their movements, habitat use, and migration patterns. The preliminary data from this research is revealing that the waters off Long Island are an important nursery area for white sharks, and therefore, plays a critical role in the recovery of their population. With a greater understanding of where, when, and how YOY and juvenile white sharks use Long Island coastal waters, we will be able to better assess the potential impacts of human activities, including commercial and recreational fisheries, energy development, and other habitat impacts on the overall population. 

Tobey Curtis is a shark researcher and fishery management specialist for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service in Gloucester, Massachusetts. He received a B.Sc. degree in Marine Science from Long Island University – Southampton, New York, and received his M.Sc. in Fisheries Science from the University of Florida. Tobey is also currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth, School for Marine Science and Technology. He has studied a variety of species including white sharks in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, bull sharks in Florida, and basking sharks, spiny dogfish, and skates off New England. His research has been featured in numerous local and national news media outlets. His main research interests are in using tagging and telemetry to study shark movements, ecology, and fisheries biology, but Tobey also plays an active role in the management of U.S. Atlantic elasmobranch fisheries. Recently, Tobey worked with a number of regional friends and colleagues to pool their skills and resources to establish the Long Island Shark Collaboration, a cooperative research and education platform aimed at improving our understanding of the sharks off Long Island’s shores.