Think you can do better than Mary Lee?
Ocearch, a nonprofit that studies the ocean’s top predators, has agreed to let Long Islanders and Newsday readers help name one of the sharks it tags during its two-week research expedition off the East End.
The group is looking for the name that best reflects Long Island — from its natural resources to way of life.
It might be the name for a blue shark, a sand tiger, a mako or even a great white like Mary Lee, the shark that drew 100,000 Twitter followers after being tagged off Cape Cod in 2012 and causes a stir as she is tracked around the Northeast.
With any luck, Long Islanders may soon have a locally tagged shark to follow. Use the form above to suggest its name. You can also find the form at newsday.com/shark. Submissions will be accepted until Aug. 23 and will be published on newsday.com before Ocearch picks a winner.
Lifelong Islander Rob Weltner, president of the Freeport-based Operation Splash, which sends volunteers on boats to pick up trash from the South Shore’s bays, offered the first contender: “Sir Hampton,” a name befitting a “big shot” of the sea.
“The Hamptons signify Long Island,” he said. “Every big shot in the world has a place out there.”
Ocearch, the New York Aquarium and other researchers set out from Montauk Saturday on a 126-foot former crab ship equipped with a shark-sized lift.
Once acoustic and satellite tags are attached to the shark’s fin, researchers wait for the tags to ping before releasing the creature, then name it and add it immediately onto the Global Shark Tracker at Ocearch.org.
As of Wednesday night, only a dogfish shark had been caught, but researchers will stay on the waters until Aug. 26 as they try to collect facts on sharks.
Five of Ocearch’s great white sharks, including Mary Lee, have been tagged on the East Coast, and their migratory travels lead scientists to believe Long Island waters may be a nursery for juvenile great white sharks. “The waters off Long Island are the only known hot spot for baby [great] white sharks in the North Atlantic,” said Tobey Curtis, fisheries manager and shark scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Also, the New York Aquarium, a partner in the Long Island expedition, has tagged more than a dozen sand tiger sharks in the Great South Bay over the past four years.
Long Islanders will be able to look up the shark they named and follow it on the Global Shark Tracker, perhaps for decades to come. According to Ocearch, new evidence indicates great white sharks may live more than 70 years in the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean.
Mary Lee, who was named after the mother of one of Ocearch’s founding chairmen, is the shark that surfaces more than any other tagged by Ocearch. She has been tracked off Long Island in 2015 and earlier this year. For researchers to track the shark, it must be near the surface for at least 90 seconds to allow the shark’s satellite and acoustic tags to ping.