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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 661:175-186 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13607

Anthropogenic pressures on reef-associated sharks in jurisdictions with and without directed shark fishing

Gina M. Clementi1,*, Elizabeth A. Babcock2, Jasmine Valentin-Albanese3, Mark E. Bond1, Kathryn I. Flowers1, Michael R. Heithaus1, Elizabeth R. Whitman1, Maurits P. M. Van Zinnicq Bergmann1,4, Tristan L. Guttridge4,5, Owen R. O’Shea6, Oliver N. Shipley3, Edward J. Brooks7, Steven T. Kessel8, Demian D. Chapman1

1Institute of Environment, Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, North Miami, FL 33181, USA
2Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami, Miami, FL 33149, USA
3School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA
4Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation, South Bimini, The Bahamas
5Saving the Blue, Cooper City, FL 33328, USA
6The Centre for Ocean Research and Education, Eleuthera, The Bahamas
7Shark Research and Conservation Program, The Cape Eleuthera Institute, Eleuthera, The Bahamas
8Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research, John G. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, IL 60605, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Shark populations have declined across the Caribbean region, with negative associations between shark abundance and human population density, open access to fishing, and proximity to large markets (‘market gravity’). This decline is frequently attributed to fishing mortality, which increases in areas closer to humans and outside marine reserves. Although it is difficult to disentangle the effects of fishing mortality from other anthropogenic pressures on sharks, comparing shark abundance and diversity in jurisdictions with near zero fishing mortality versus prevalent shark fishing can demonstrate the role of overfishing. We used baited remote underwater video systems to compare shark abundance and diversity on coral reefs in 2 Caribbean nations with contrasting levels of shark exploitation: Belize (shark fishing) and The Bahamas (shark sanctuary). The abundance of targeted shark species and diversity were significantly higher in The Bahamas than in Belize. Caribbean reef and nurse shark abundance in Belize were best predicted by fishing-related factors (marine reserves, market gravity, their interaction). In The Bahamas, abiotic factors (depth, sea surface temperature) best predicted nurse shark abundance, while depth, market gravity, and its interaction with marine reserves predicted Caribbean reef shark abundance. These results indicate that fishing mortality reduces shark abundance and diversity in Belize, while lower fishing mortality in The Bahamas has greatly reduced but not eliminated human impacts on sharks. Future work should elucidate the indirect effects of humans to develop holistic shark conservation plans. We suggest minimizing shark fishing through multinational management plans to improve shark abundance and diversity, especially on reefs near densely populated areas.


KEY WORDS: Baited remote underwater video · Conservation · Fishing · Marine protected area · Reef sharks


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Cite this article as: Clementi GM, Babcock EA, Valentin-Albanese J, Bond ME and others (2021) Anthropogenic pressures on reef-associated sharks in jurisdictions with and without directed shark fishing. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 661:175-186. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13607

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