Shark Nursery Grounds of the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast Waters of the United States

Sandbar Shark Nurseries in New Jersey and New York: Evidence of Northern Pupping Grounds along the United States East Coast

Rebeka R. Merson and Harold L. Pratt, Jr.


Abstract.—Historically, primary nursery (pupping) grounds of the sandbar shark Carcharhinus plumbeus along the U.S. East Coast extended as far north as Great South Bay, Long Island, New York. We conducted gill-net and hook-and-line surveys during July and August 1996, in coastal bays of New Jersey and New York, to investigate whether these historical nursery areas were still utilized by sandbar sharks. No sandbar sharks were caught in Great South Bay, Shinnecock Bay, or Peconic Bay, New York or in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey. Seventeen sandbar sharks measuring 42– 52 cm fork length (47–62 cm total length) were captured in Great Bay, New Jersey; all sandbar sharks had unhealed umbilical scars and 35% carried umbilical cord remains, indicative of recent birth. Sharks were tagged and released. Three of these sharks were recaptured (18% recapture rate); one sandbar shark was recaptured in Great Bay 3.7 km from the release location, and two sharks were recaptured the following March off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina by commercial fishermen in the same gill-net set. In conclusion, the results from this study indicate that Great Bay, New Jersey continues to be a primary nursery ground for the sandbar shark, and the study results also contribute to the understanding of migratory patterns for this species.