MEPS 408:275-293 (2010)  -  doi:10.3354/meps08581

Complexities of coastal shark movements and their implications for management

Conrad W. Speed1,2,*, Iain C. Field3, Mark G. Meekan1, Corey J. A. Bradshaw4,5

1Australian Institute of Marine Science, UWA Oceans Institute (MO96), 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Western Australia 6009, Australia
2School for Environmental Research, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Northern Territory 0909, Australia
3Graduate School for the Environment, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales 2109, Australia
4The Environment Institute and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia
5South Australian Research and Development Institute, PO Box 120, Henley Beach, South Australia 5022, Australia

ABSTRACT: Global declines of shark populations are of concern because of their largely assumed role as moderators of ecosystem function. Without long-term data on movement patterns for many species, it is impossible to infer relative extinction risk, which varies as a function of range, dispersal and habitat specificity and use. The past 50 yr of research on coastal sharks has revealed common movement patterns among species. In the horizontal plane, measured home range size generally increases with body size. We demonstrate meta-analytically the effects of increasing body size and monitoring time on home range size. Changes in the extent of horizontal movement might arise from ontogeny, predator avoidance or environmental tolerances. In the vertical plane, movement patterns include oscillatory vertical displacement, surface swimming, diel vertical migration and swimming at depth. These vertical movements are often attributed to foraging or navigation, but have been quantified less than horizontal patterns. Habitat specificity is often correlated with environmental conditions such as depth, salinity, substratum, and in some cases, prey availability. Site fidelity is common in species that use nursery areas. However, fidelity to mating, pupping, feeding and natal sites has only been observed in a few species. To date, few studies have examined habitat partitioning, although some general patterns have emerged: habitats appear to be subdivided by benthos type, prey availability and depth. The conservation of coastal sharks can be facilitated in some cases by the use of marine protected areas, especially for coastal resident species using specific nursery, reproduction or feeding areas. Partial protected-area closures might be effective during aggregation or migration periods to protect older size classes, but these must be applied with other management strategies such as reduced fishing and size or bag limits to protect individuals throughout different life history phases. More long-term research on habitat use, migration patterns and habitat partitioning is essential for developing successful management initiatives for coastal shark populations.

KEY WORDS: Extinction risk · Depth range · Habitat loss · Harvest · Home range · Horizontal range · Life history · Ontogeny · Segregation · Site fidelity · Vertical migration · Habitat partitioning

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Cite this article as: Speed CW, Field IC, Meekan MG, Bradshaw CJA (2010) Complexities of coastal shark movements and their implications for management. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 408:275-293

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