Seasonal occurrence and sexual segregation of great white sharks in Mossel Bay

Published on
03. May 2021

Seasonal occurrence and sexual segregation of great white sharks Carcharodon carcharias in Mossel Bay, South Africa

Hannah R. Milankovic, Nicholas D. Ray, Louise K. Gentle, Christo Kruger, Esther Jacobs, Craig J. Ferreira


The seasonal occurrence and temporal sexual segregation of great white sharks Carcharodon carcharias have been widely documented in various temperate and sub-tropical waters across the globe. Yet, there is limited understanding of the relationship between the life stages and habitat use of C. carcharias, particularly in the Southern Cape. In this study, we investigated the population dynamics of C. carcharias in Mossel Bay, South Africa, between 2009 and 2013, using skipper logbooks and citizen research data obtained by a cage-diving vessel. A total of 3064 sharks, ranging in life history stages from young-of-the-year to subadult, were sighted during 573 trips. Juveniles dominated the sightings throughout the study, and there was marked sexual segregation, with females dominating the total sightings of sharks. C. carcharias were most abundant during the cooler, winter season, with females differing in abundance seasonally and males maintaining a low abundance throughout the year but peaking in the winter. In addition, sea surface temperature was the best indicator of C. carcharias presence. Abundance was greatest when vertical water visibility exceeded 3 m, with cloud cover influencing overall abundance negatively. Likely reasoning for the aggregation of C. carcharias in Mossel Bay includes the favourable conditions and abundance of food. Juvenile sharks may also utilise this area as a training ground to learn from larger conspecifics. This research demonstrates that information on population size and structure of C. carcharias can be obtained effectively through a compilation of logbook and citizen science data to assess and identify potential critical habitats in the quest to develop appropriate management strategies. This research also shows value in commercial cage-diving operations deriving international data sets needed to assess global populations of C. carcharias.

Environ Biol Fish (2021). DOI: 10.1007/s10641-021-01094-8


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