Changing relative abundance and behaviour of silky and grey reef sharks baited on a Red Sea reef

paper8Published online on 21. June 2013

Changing relative abundance and behaviour of silky and grey reef sharks baited over 12 years on a Red Sea reef

C. R. Clarke, J. S. E. Lea and R. F. G. Ormond


There is a lack of studies on how provisioning may influence shark numbers and behaviour. The effects of long-term provisioning were investigated at a Red Sea reef, where both grey reef shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) and silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) occurred. Initially, grey reef sharks outnumbered silky sharks, but over 6 years, silky shark numbers increased almost 20-fold, whereas grey-reef sightings decreased >90%. Following this, silky-shark sightings also declined considerably (>80%). It is suggested that these declines could relate to local overfishing. Many silky sharks were identified individually through distinctive markings or conventional tagging. Some individual silky sharks were recorded regularly over 2 years or more, but most appeared to be transient visitors. Sighting records indicated that provisioning extended the residency of transient individuals. If visiting silky sharks were drawn from a larger regional population, this would explain both their initial accumulation and why, to begin with, sightings were sustained despite local fishing pressure. Conversely, the site fidelity typical of grey reef sharks would have made them more susceptible to local depletion. Silky sharks were recorded as behaving more boldly when present in greater numbers, but the decline in grey reef sharks appears to be unrelated to the initial increase in the numbers of silky shark.

Marine and Freshwater Research: Online Early Version.



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