LONG ISLAND — It’s a 400 million-year-old mystery lurking in the waters off the shores of Long Island that researchers and scientists are trying to solve.
Members of Ocearch along with scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society are hoping to discover if the Long Island shoreline is in fact a nursery for great white sharks.
PIX11 was invited along for part of the two-week expedition aboard the MV Ocearch, a converted crabbing vessel that has been specially designed to handle the capture of a great white for research purposes, but in this case, they are looking for a baby.
This marks Ocearch’s 26th expedition, led by founder Chris Fischer, who was able to successfully tag dozens of sharks with tracking devices, including the now world famous 16-foot long Mary Lee.
Lee made headlines last year when she continuously swam up and down the shores of the Jersey Shore and Long Island. It is because of those patterns that Fischer has zeroed in on the south shore lines of Long Island to find potential juvenile whites.
“Our big mature shark, Mary Lee, came into the south side of Long Island in May and June which is the birthing season for the great white,” says Fischer.
Fischer explains that the whole expedition, his whole passion for researching sharks is simple and involves you.
“If we lose the shark in the ocean, the squid explode and wipe out the baby fish, meaning there is nothing to eat,” Fischer explains. “So, as the shark goes, the ocean goes and as the ocean goes, the planet goes.”
It’s already happening. Fischer says over a million sharks have been killed for shark fin soup, a practice where a sharks fin is cut off and thrown back into the ocean, left to die without its proper fin to help maneuver the ocean waters.
On this voyage, the first week was hampered with bad weather.
Harsh winds and storms pushed the MV Ocearch to areas they had not planned to search.
“The wind is a big challenge we face,” says Captain Brett McBride.
But, on day two of PIX11s visit it was smooth sailing.
McBride has worked alongside Fischer for nearly 19 years. He simply loves the ocean and everything it has to offer.
“The ocean has given me everything my entire life,” says McBride. “Since I was five years old I wanted to be a captain. “
Each day begins early for the Ocearch team – laying out lines of bait, and traps to attract the sharks miles off of the MV Ocearch.
They use a smaller boat called The Contender to continuously venture out to check for catches. If there is a bite, they use the smaller boat to lure the shark back to the mother ship for tagging.
The Ocearch team has invited members of the NY Aquarium and Wildlife Conservation Society to help out
Merry Camhi is Director of the New York Seascape program who helped us understand what is happening in the waters we swim in.
“In New York waters, we think there are about 26 species of sharks and rays,” Camhi says. “So, we are interested in the importance of these waters.”
It’s an amazing opportunity for scientists and researchers from all over to come together and share information and intel.
For now, it’s a waiting game for that first baby white shark to be tagged.
In the meantime, Fischer points out there is simply nothing to be afraid of when venturing into the waters to cool off.
“You are more likely to win that lottery than to have a shark interaction,” says Fischer.
For more information on Ocearch and how you can get involved, visit their website Ocearch.org or download the shark tracking app.