Distribution and population structure of the smooth-hound shark across the Canarian archipelago

Published on
13 July 2022

Distribution and population structure of the smooth-hound shark, Mustelus mustelus (Linnaeus, 1758), across an oceanic archipelago: Combining several data sources to promote conservation

Fernando Espino, José Antonio González, Néstor E Bosch, Francisco J Otero-Ferrer, Ricardo Haroun, Fernando Tuya


Sharks play a key role in the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems. More ecological information is essential to implement responsible management and conservation actions on this fauna, particularly at a regional level for threatened species. Mustelus mustelus is widely found in the eastern Atlantic Ocean and catalogued as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN European assessment. In this study, data on the distribution and population structure of this species across the islands of the Canarian archipelago, located along an east to west gradient in the north-eastern Atlantic, were collected by taking advantage of “Local Ecological Knowledge,” in terms of sightings in coastal waters and long-term imprints on the local gastronomic heritage, and decadal fisheries landings. Both sources of quantitative data (sightings and fisheries landings) demonstrated that adults of M. mustelus has a significantly larger presence in the eastern and central, than in the western islands of the archipelago. This is also reflected on local gastronomic legacies, with a larger number of recipes in the eastern and central islands. Adult smooth-hound sharks were significantly more observed in sandy and sandy-rocky bottoms, with individuals seen throughout the entire year, whereas juveniles aggregate on very shallow waters in spring and summer. Such aggregations require a special management strategy, as they play a key role in critical life stages; these sites should be protected from human perturbations. We also suggest a temporal fishing ban between April and October, when individuals tend to concentrate on nearshore waters. Because of the large differences in presence of this shark among the Canary Islands, management of the species should be adapted to the specific peculiarities of each island, rather than adopting a management policy at the entire archipelago-scale. Overall, this study sets the basis for further investigation to promote conservation of this vulnerable shark in the study region.

Ecol Evol. ;12(7):e9098. doi: 10.1002/ece3.9098. eCollection 2022 Jul.


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