Habitat, movements and environmental preferences of dusky sharks in the northern Gulf of Mexico

paperPublished in January 2014

Habitat, movements and environmental preferences of dusky sharks, Carcharhinus obscurus, in the northern Gulf of Mexico

Eric R. Hoffmayer, James S. Franks, William B. Driggers III, Jennifer A. McKinney, Jill M. Hendon, Joseph M. Quattro


The dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurus) is the largest member of the genus Carcharhinus and inhabits coastal and pelagic ecosystems circumglobally in temperate, subtropical and tropical marine waters. In the western North Atlantic Ocean (WNA), dusky sharks are overfished and considered vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. As a result, retention of dusky sharks in commercial and recreational fisheries off the east coast of the United States (US) and in the northern Gulf of Mexico is prohibited. Despite the concerns regarding the status of dusky sharks in the WNA, little is known about their habitat utilization. During the summers of 2008–2009, pop-up satellite archival tags were attached to ten dusky sharks (one male, nine females) at a location where they have been observed to aggregate in the north central Gulf of Mexico southwest of the Mississippi River Delta to examine their movement patterns and habitat utilization. All tags successfully transmitted data with deployment durations ranging from 6 to 124 days. Tag data revealed shark movements in excess of 200 km from initial tagging locations, with sharks primarily utilizing offshore waters associated with the continental shelf edge from Desoto Canyon to the Texas/Mexican border. While most sharks remained in US waters, one individual moved from the northern Gulf of Mexico into the Bay of Campeche off the coast of Mexico. Sharks spent 87 % of their time between 20 and 125 m and 83 % of their time in waters between 23 and 30 °C. Since dusky sharks are among the most vulnerable shark species to fishing mortality, there is a recovery plan in place for US waters; however, since they have been shown to make long-distance migrations, a multi-national management plan within the WNA may be needed to ensure the successful recovery of this population.

Marine Biology 2014, DOI 10.1007/s00227-014-2391-0.



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