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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 642:163-177 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13322

Predicting changes in distribution of a large coastal shark in the face of the strengthening East Australian Current

Yuri Niella1,*, Amy F. Smoothey2, Victor Peddemors2, Robert Harcourt1

1Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, New South Wales 2113, Australia
2NSW Department of Primary Industries, Fisheries Research, Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Mosman, New South Wales 2088, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: In the face of accelerating climate change, conservation strategies will need to consider how marine animals deal with forecast environmental change as well as ongoing threats. We used 10 yr (2009-2018) of data from commercial fisheries and a bather protection program along the coast of New South Wales (NSW), southeastern Australia, to investigate (1) spatial and temporal patterns of occurrence in bull sharks and (2) environmental factors affecting bull shark occurrence along the coast of NSW. Predicted future distribution for this species was modelled for the forecast strengthening East Australian Current. Bull sharks were mostly harvested in small to larger estuaries, with average depth and rainfall responsible for contrasting patterns for each of the fisheries. There was an increase in the occurrence of bull sharks over the last decade, particularly among coastal setline fisheries, associated with seasonal availability of thermal gradients >22°C and both westward and southward coastal currents stronger than 0.15 and 0.60 m s-1, respectively, during the austral summer. Our model predicts a 3 mo increase in the availability of favourable water temperatures along the entire coast of NSW for bull sharks by 2030. This coastline provides a uniquely favourable topography for range expansion in the face of a southerly shift of warmer waters, and habitat is unlikely to be a limiting factor for bull sharks in the future. Such a southerly shift in distribution has implications for the management of bull sharks both in commercial fisheries and for mitigation of shark-human interactions.


KEY WORDS: Climate change · East Australian Current · Bull shark · Population distribution · Shark-human interactions


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Cite this article as: Niella Y, Smoothey AF, Peddemors V, Harcourt R (2020) Predicting changes in distribution of a large coastal shark in the face of the strengthening East Australian Current. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 642:163-177. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13322

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