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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 683:97-107 (2022)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13954

Varying reef shark abundance trends inside a marine reserve: evidence of a Caribbean reef shark decline

Kathryn I. Flowers1,*, Elizabeth A. Babcock2, Yannis P. Papastamatiou1, Mark E. Bond1, Norlan Lamb3, Ashbert Miranda3, Randolph Nuñez4, Jasmine Valentin-Albanese5, Gina M. Clementi1, Megan C. Kelley1, Demian D. Chapman1,6

1Institute of Environment, Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, North Miami, Florida 33181, USA
2Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, Florida 33149, USA
3Captain Norlan Lamb, Marine Science Vessel Support Service, PO Box 331, Belize City, Belize
4Wildlife Conservation Society Belize, PO Box 768, Belize City, Belize
5School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11790, USA
6Sharks & Rays Conservation Research, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, Florida 34236, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Spatial comparisons of reef shark abundance inside and outside marine protected areas (MPAs) are common and generally report positive MPA effects, yet few studies have tracked abundance trends over long time periods. This is problematic because inside:outside comparisons at a single point in time cannot evaluate whether populations are declining. In Belize, the Caribbean reef shark Carcharhinus perezi is one of the most fished shark species and is more abundant inside MPAs. Although the relative abundance of C. perezi was stable inside Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve (GRMR) from 2001 to 2013, using standard baited remote underwater video station surveys, we document a decline in relative abundance inside the no-take marine reserve from 2009 to 2019. We used a negative binomial generalized linear model and model averaging to test the effect of year, depth, and water temperature on C. perezi and nurse shark Ginglymostoma cirratum relative abundance. While model-averaged results indicated a C. perezi decline, G. cirratum remained stable from 2009 to 2019. We hypothesize that the C. perezi decline is a result of fishing along the edge of GRMR, while G. cirratum stability is related to their behavior and nationwide protection. Given the dynamic nature of fisheries regulations, economic pressures, and site-specific environmental conditions, our results emphasize the need for standardized long-term monitoring of reef sharks inside and around MPAs globally.


KEY WORDS: Shark relative abundance · Marine protected area · Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve · Baited remote underwater video stations · Carcharhinus perezi · Ginglymostoma cirratum


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Cite this article as: Flowers KI, Babcock EA, Papastamatiou YP, Bond ME and others (2022) Varying reef shark abundance trends inside a marine reserve: evidence of a Caribbean reef shark decline. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 683:97-107. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13954

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