Philopatry and Regional Connectivity of the Great Hammerhead Shark in the U.S. and Bahamas

Published on 20 January 2017

Philopatry and Regional Connectivity of the Great Hammerhead Shark, Sphyrna mokarran in the U.S. and Bahamas

Tristan L. Guttridge, Maurits P. M. Van Zinnicq Bergmann, Chris Bolte, Lucy A. Howey, Jean S. Finger, Steven T. Kessel, Jill L. Brooks, William Winram, Mark E. Bond, Lance K. B. Jordan, Rachael C. Cashman, Emily R. Tolentino, R. Dean Grubbs, Samuel H. Gruber


A thorough understanding of movement patterns of a species is critical for designing effective conservation and management initiatives. However, generating such information for large marine vertebrates is challenging, as they typically move over long distances, live in concealing environments, are logistically difficult to capture and, as upper-trophic predators, are naturally low in abundance. Large-bodied, broadly distributed tropical shark typically restricted to coastal and shelf habitats, the great hammerhead shark Sphyrna mokarran epitomizes such challenges. Highly valued for its fins (in target and incidental fisheries), it suffers high bycatch mortality coupled with fecundity conservative life history, and as a result, is vulnerable to over-exploitation and population depletion. Although there are very little species-specific data available, the absence of recent catch records give cause to suspect substantial declines across its range. Here, we used biotelemetry techniques (acoustic and satellite), conventional tagging, laser-photogrammetry, and photo-identification to investigate the level of site fidelity/residency for great hammerheads to coastal areas in the Bahamas and U.S., and the extent of movements and connectivity of great hammerheads between the U.S. and Bahamas. Results revealed large-scale return migrations (3030 km), seasonal residency to local areas (some for 5 months), site fidelity (annual return to Bimini and Jupiter for many individuals) and numerous international movements. These findings enhance the understanding of movement ecology in great hammerhead sharks and have potential to contribute to improved conservation and management.

Front. Mar. Sci. DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2017.00003



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