The Cooperative Atlantic States Shark Pupping and Nursery (COASTSPAN) program has been collecting information on shark nursery areas since 1998. It’s led by the NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center. The survey area spanned waters in New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, and Eastern Florida in 2017.
In 2017, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science conducted a COASTSPAN longline survey in the lower Chesapeake Bay and in the coastal inlets and lagoons along the Eastern Shore. They found five species of sharks:
They also caught clearnose skate and four ray species:
- Bullnose ray.
- Cownose ray.
- Roughtail stingray.
- Southern stingray.
Like Delaware Bay, Virginia’s waters act as an important nursery habitat for sandbar sharks. Juvenile sandbar sharks—a majority less than one-year-old—were the most commonly caught shark throughout the survey area. In fact, juvenile sandbars were the only sharks caught in the coastal lagoons and inlets of the Eastern Shore, with the exception of one adult male blacktip shark.
All spinner and blacktip sharks caught in the lower Chesapeake Bay were juveniles, while Atlantic sharpnose were a mix of juveniles and adults. Smooth dogfish were only present in the bay as adults in 2017.