Thesis: Survival of the blacktip shark


Survival of the blacktip shark, Carcharhinus limbatus

William A. Swinsburg


Proportional survival (S) is a crucial life-history parameter in population dynamics, natural selection, and management of harvested stocks; variations in survival due to age, sex, or geographic region may have large effects on the success of managing fish stocks. The blacktip shark, Carcharhinus limbatus, is the most abundantly harvested shark species in American fisheries. Direct estimates of survival are preferred, but all current survival estimates for this species are either focused on young-of-the-year (YOY) or based on indirect methods. The objectives of this study were to determine whether age, sex, or geographic grouping affects survival and to generate direct survival estimates based on tag-recovery data. As a byproduct of this analysis, distribution maps and descriptive data summarizing captures were included. The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has been collecting tag-recovery data since 1962 through the Cooperative Shark Tagging Program (CSTP). Models were generated from this database with program MARK, ranked in order of parsimony according to Akaike’s Information Criterion, and tested for significance of effects with likelihood ratio tests. No movement has been observed to date between the west Gulf of Mexico, east Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Atlantic, but 2 sharks tagged in the U.S. Virgin Islands were recaptured off Florida and Georgia (displacement= 1049 and 1183 n. mi., respectively). Survival did not differ significantly for males vs. females (P=0.761), east vs. west Gulf of Mexico (P=0.654), or U.S. Atlantic vs. Gulf of Mexico (P=0.243). However, significant differences were found for survival of YOY (0.580) and post-YOY (0.725) within the Gulf of Mexico (P=0.0003). These results demonstrate that survival can be modeled effectively for species in the CSTP with relatively small sample sizes. Future analyses may benefit from a length-based model, due to the difficulty in assigning life stages based on size.

Open Access Master’s Theses. Paper 14.




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