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Briella TomassettiAug 16, 2018, 6:01 pmAug 17, 2018, 3:24 pm

‘Long Island Shark Man’ reels in apex predators to help preserve them

Even though sharks are at the top of the food chain, Chris Stefanou says they are becoming endangered

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TOBAY BEACH — Chris Stefanou reeled in his biggest catch of the entire year at Tobay Beach on Thursday, an 8.5-foot sand tiger shark. But he isn’t fishing for sport. He does it in the name of science, catching sharks to tag and release them back into the ocean.

"These guys migrate from the Gulf of Mexico and migrate all the way up to Nantucket, and they're becoming endangered," 22-year-old Stefanou said.

The self-proclaimed “Long Island Shark Man” says his work started about three years ago when he went salt-water fishing for the first time at Gilgo Beach. Chris hits the beach about four to five times a week. On a regular day, he comes equipped with 15-foot fishing rods, bait, and a drone. He always brings a buddy along to help tag their big catch, measure its length and weight, gender, location and time it was caught. That information is then sent to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association.

"We have to really start preserving these apex predators. They're at the top of the food chain. If we don't preserve them and figure out their migration patterns, the whole ecosystem in the ocean could diminish," Stefanou said.

Chris believes it’s important to study different kinds of shark species and their migration patterns as many of them are jeopardized by commercial fishing, either getting tangled up in fishing lines or caught as food. By learning where they swim, he says he can help keep them safe.

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