An ocean research organization has discovered a nursery and probably even the birthing site of great white sharks in the North Atlantic— and it’s near Montauk, Long Island. 

Chris Fischer, the founding chairman of Ocearch, the organization behind the development, told CBS News that they had “definitely [found] the nursery, likely the birthing site.” 

The find is “probably the most significant discovery we’ve ever made on the ocean,” Fischer added.

Knowing where the great white sharks give birth and raise their young in the North Atlantic can lead to better efforts to protect the iconic animals, which the International Union for the Conservation of Nature describes as “vulnerable.”

The birthing site is “the holy grail of the research,” Fischer told CBS, which reported the discovery.

Ocearch tracks great white sharks by putting tags on their dorsal fins, and when they surface, they ping a satellite. This summer, the organization tagged several sharks, among them a 42-pound male named Hampton and a 50-pound female named Montauk. Both were tagged in August, and both are immature. They also collect blood and tissue samples from the sharks, measure them, and determine their sex. 

Related:

The Ocearch website allows the public to follow the location of the sharks, and recently, both Hampton and Montauk were swimming near Long Island. The organization also recently tagged sharks they dubbed Gotham, Gratitude, and Hudson.

Mary Lee is another well-known shark the organization tracks, and she’s very big. First tagged in 2012, she weighs 3,456 pounds and is 16 feet long. She’s traveled over 34,000 miles since she was tagged, and bears the namesake of Fischer’s mother, according to her profile on Ocearch. Recently, she pinged in off the coast of the Carolinas.

Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger