White Sharks Get a Bad Rap

July 11, 2023

What's the reality in New York waters?

There are 27 known shark species in the New York waters and the white shark, also referred to as the great white shark, migrates through these waters every year. The Atlantic Ocean off New York, particularly around Montauk, is also known to be a nursery ground for juveniles or recently born white sharks. These juveniles, which can be up to 10 feet, remain resident throughout the summer then migrate south in the fall to the Carolinas.

New York waters are a very important habitat for white sharks and our WCS New York Seascape Program based at the New York Aquarium, collaborates with others to study their life history, health, and migration patterns here. The white sharks we hear about off Cape Cod are known to aggregate annually there feeding on seals that haul out nearshore. Seals are largely only in New York waters in colder months, when white sharks are not here in the New York Bight. And us humans are normally not out in these cold waters.

While movies like Jaws and reported tragic incidents of interactions between humans and white sharks have given them a bad rap, it’s important to know these sharks are key for the health of our oceans. As apex predators they help keep a balance of life in the ocean ecosystem by eating their natural prey, such as seals and large fish. This in turn keeps ocean habitat and ecosystems healthy and vibrant, just as apex predators on land, such as wolves or tigers do in their habitats – our oceans need these iconic predators in order to thrive!

The fact that white sharks are showing signs of a slow recovery on the East Coast is an impressive conservation victory.

The fact that white sharks are showing signs of a slow recovery on the East Coast is an impressive conservation victory, with decades of protection for the species and its prey allowing the slow growing apex predators to being to recover and resume their key role contributing to the health of the ocean.

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