Distribution and length composition of lemon sharks in a nursery ground in southern Cuba

Published on
19. November 2020

Distribution and length composition of lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) in a nursery ground in southern Cuba

Ruiz-Abierno, A., Márquez-Farías, J.F., Hueter, R.E. et al.


Characterization of essential habitat for sharks is a key requirement for effective conservation of shark populations. In Cuba, shark essential habitat is largely undocumented. Here we present the first study of a shark nursery area in Cuban waters, for the lemon shark. Nursery areas for lemon sharks are typically surrounded by mangroves and contain sandy substrate where the young can feed, grow, move, and eventually disperse from the area. We conducted our study in Cuba’s La Salina Wildlife Refuge during 2015–2019, to understand the role this refuge might play as a lemon shark nursery area, by documenting the distribution and length structure of juveniles. Our results indicate that juvenile lemon sharks are present throughout much of the refuge with no clear pattern of aggregation by size. The size range of all juveniles captured was 39.8–108.0 cm precaudal length (PCL) with a mode in length-class 70.0–75.0 cm PCL. The mean size and weight of all individuals during the study period was 75.8 cm PCL and 5.5 kg, respectively. We infrequently observed neonates in May, June, and September with size range 39.8–55.5 cm PCL. Enforcement of management regulations, difficult access to the refuge for fishers and other user groups, and isolation from human settlements are factors that help maintain nearly pristine conditions in La Salina Wildlife Refuge. The size/age structure of lemon sharks likely represents a population unaltered by human influence. We recommend our study be expanded to contribute to shark conservation and management as outlined in Cuba’s National Plan of Action for sharks.

Environ Biol Fish 103, 1583–1594 (2020). DOI: 10.1007/s10641-020-01050-y


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