Scientists excited by discovery of shark nursery off Long Island

The scientists who track shark in the waters off Long Island have been very busy lately.

This has been a successful expedition led by shark tracking team OCEARCH. Scientists tagged nine baby sharks in the waters off Montauk in August. It's the first confirmed shark nursery and likely the birthing site for great whites on the North Atlantic Coast.

"This is a huge discovery for us, probably our largest in 26 expeditions," said OCEARCH founder and chairman Chris Fischer. He said that the famed shark Mary Lee tipped them off to this spot. Knowing where they are giving birth can lead to better protection policies and scientific knowledge.

"We hope to be tracking these young of the year white sharks for one to three years depending upon how long their tags last," Fischer said. "And over that period of time what they'll do is they'll define the range of the nursery. Where do they live the first year of their life and how and when do they move through the areas?"

Experts say the sharks serve an important purpose. They help the ecosystem by keeping the food chain balanced.

"They're going to keep in check our bait fishes and our medium-sized fishes. That way they don't get out of hand." said Rachel Vietheer, an aquarist at the Long Island Aquarium. She cares for the sharks at the aquarium. Scientists believe the young sharks stay in the nursery, which offers protection and plenty of food. Contrary to their bad rap, only a few species are potentially dangerous.

The sharks can be followed real time on the OCEARCH website. The next expedition is off Nantucket. Scientists hope to find more mature sharks and pinpoint the mating site.