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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 659:143-159 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13572

Oceanographic conditions associated with white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) habitat use along eastern Australia

K. A. Lee1,2,*, P. A. Butcher3, R. G. Harcourt2, T. A. Patterson4, V. M. Peddemors5, M. Roughan6, D. Harasti7, A. F. Smoothey5, R. W. Bradford4

1Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Mosman, NSW 2088, Australia
2 Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia
3NSW Department of Primary Industries, National Marine Science Centre, Coffs Harbour, NSW 2450, Australia
4Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia
5NSW Department of Primary Industries, Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Mosman, Sydney, NSW 2088, Australia
6School of Mathematics and Statistics, UNSW Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
7NSW Department of Primary Industries, Nelson Bay, NSW 2315, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Management of species with wide-ranging migrations is a complex issue, made more challenging when the species is both protected and poses a risk to humans. Understanding the oceanic conditions associated with shark habitat use can help develop mitigation strategies or warning systems that meet both conservation and human safety objectives. Using satellite tracks from 77 juvenile and sub-adult white sharks tagged over 10 yr, we modelled individual movement patterns using hidden Markov models and applied generalised additive (mixed) models to explore correlations between movement patterns (presence-absence, habitat selection and behavioural state) and oceanographic and bathymetric variables. White sharks used the whole of the continental shelf, down to depths of 350 m on the continental slope. Sharks were present over a wide range of sea surface temperatures (SSTs; 10-27°C), with the highest probability of occurring at ~20°C. However, the number of average daily tag positions was greatest when SST was between 14 and 18°C, and sharks were more likely to exhibit area-restricted movement when SST was between ~19 and 23°C. Sharks were more likely to be present and selected habitats in productive areas with moderate to high surface chl a concentrations as well as thermal and productivity fronts. Although mesoscale eddies did not influence the likelihood of individuals being present in an area, there was a higher density of sharks in cold-core eddies compared to warm-core eddies. This study indicates that white shark presence and dispersal may be linked, perhaps via prey distribution, to oceanic conditions, potentially assisting development of suitable shark bite mitigation strategies.


KEY WORDS: Carcharodon carcharias · Chl a · Generalised additive mixed models · Habitat use · Satellite tracking · Sea surface temperature


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Cite this article as: Lee KA, Butcher PA, Harcourt RG, Patterson TA and others (2021) Oceanographic conditions associated with white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) habitat use along eastern Australia. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 659:143-159. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13572

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