NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Scientists from the New York Aquarium have located a rare nursery ground for sand tiger sharks near the shore of Long Island in the Great South Bay.

Researchers from the Coney Island, Brooklyn aquarium have spent the past four years collecting information on local sharks, using acoustic tags to track them and to locate the nursery ground in the rich estuary on the South Shore of Long Island.

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Only a few sand tiger shark nursery grounds have been identified, the aquarium said in a news release. Another was also found in the waters off Massachusetts.

“The discovery of a shark nursery is fantastic news for local conservationists seeking to learn more about sharks and other species in the New York Bight,” Jon Dohlin, Vice President and Director of the New York Aquarium, said in a news release. “Through field projects and outreach efforts by the New York Aquarium and other organizations, we hope to raise awareness about our local marine environment and the need to manage our natural wonders.”

Back in 2011, a New York Aquarium scientist received a picture of a deceased juvenile sand tiger shark from a marina in the Great South Bay. Local fishermen and boaters told the aquarium scientists that people had been catching the small sharks in the bay for years, the aquarium said.

The scientists then began the tagging study, using the acoustic transmitters in the Great South Bay and catching and releasing the juvenile sand tiger sharks they found. A total of 15 sharks have been tagged – 10 of them in the past year, the aquarium said.

The data the scientists have gathered will facilitate better learning about the migratory behavior of sand tiger sharks and their habitats, the aquarium said. The discovery of the Great South Bay nursery ground is also important since the sand tiger shark has been depleted by fishing and has been deemed a “species of concern” by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service.

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Fishing for sand tiger sharks has been forbidden in state and federal waters since 1997, the aquarium said.

Sand tiger sharks also have a low reproductive rate – with mother sharks giving birth to only one or two pups every two years – and thus, the population will take a long time to rebuild, the aquarium said. But protecting the nursery will help the population recover, the aquarium said.

Sand tigers are born live rather than hatching from eggs, the aquarium said. They are born in southerly waters and migrate their way north as juveniles to spend the summers in the waters off New York, the aquarium said.

The Great South Bay nursery ground allows for sharks ranging from several months to five years old to feed and grow, and also gives them protection from predators – including other sharks, the aquarium said.

While fearsome-looking, sand tiger sharks are docile, the aquarium said.

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The research on the sharks is part of the Wildlife Conservation Society New York Seascape Program, which is based at the New York Aquarium. The program also is working with society scientists from Argentina to improve the understanding of sand tiger sharks in the southwest Atlantic Ocean, which have also been depleted by overfishing.