Drivers of variation in occurrence, abundance, and behaviour of sharks on coral reefs

Published on
14 January 2022

Drivers of variation in occurrence, abundance, and behaviour of sharks on coral reefs

E. Lester, T. Langlois, I. Lindgren, M. Birt, T. Bond, D. McLean, B. Vaughan, T. H. Holmes, M. Meekan


Quantifying the drivers of population size in reef sharks is critical for the development of appropriate conservation strategies. In north-west Australia, shark populations inhabit coral reefs that border growing centres of human population, industry, and tourism. However, we lack baseline data on reef sharks at large spatial scales (hundreds of km) that might enable managers to assess the status of shark populations in the face of future development in this region. Here, we examined the occurrence, abundance and behaviour of apex (Galeocerdo cuvier, Carcharhinus plumbeus) and reef (C. amblyrhynchos, C. melanopterus, Triaenodon obesus) sharks using > 1200 deployments of baited remote underwater stereo-video systems (stereo-BRUVs) across > 500 km of coastline. We found evidence for species-specific influences of habitat and fishing activities on the occurrence (probability of observation), abundance (MaxN) and behaviour of sharks (time of arrival to the stereo-BRUVs and likelihood of feeding). Although the presence of management zoning (No-take areas) made little difference to most species, C. amblyrhynchos were more common further from boat ramps (a proxy of recreational fishing pressure). Time of arrival for all species was also influenced by distance to boat ramp, although patterns varied among species. Our results demonstrate the capacity for behavioural metrics to complement existing measures of occurrence and abundance in assessing the potential impact of human activities on shark populations.

Sci Rep 12, 728 (2022), DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-04024-x


Leave a Reply