Reef-fidelity and migration of tiger sharks, Galeocerdo cuvier, across the Coral Sea

J. Werry, S. Planes, M. Berumen, K. Lee, C. Braun, E. Clua
PLoS One, 9: e83249, (2014)

Reef-fidelity and migration of tiger sharks, Galeocerdo cuvier, across the Coral Sea

Keywords

Tiger sharks

Abstract

​Knowledge of the habitat use and migration patterns of large sharks is important for assessing the effectiveness of large predator Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), vulnerability to fisheries and environmental influences, and management of shark–human interactions. Here we compare movement, reef-fidelity, and ocean migration for tiger sharks, Galeocerdo cuvier, across the Coral Sea, with an emphasis on New Caledonia. Thirty-three tiger sharks (1.54 to 3.9 m total length) were tagged with passive acoustic transmitters and their localised movements monitored on receiver arrays in New Caledonia, the Chesterfield and Lord Howe Islands in the Coral Sea, and the east coast of Queensland, Australia. Satellite tags were also used to determine habitat use and movements among habitats across the Coral Sea. Sub-adults and one male adult tiger shark displayed year-round residency in the Chesterfields with two females tagged in the Chesterfields and detected on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, after 591 and 842 days respectively. In coastal barrier reefs, tiger sharks were transient at acoustic arrays and each individual demonstrated a unique pattern of occurrence. From 2009 to 2013, fourteen sharks with satellite and acoustic tags undertook wide-ranging movements up to 1114 km across the Coral Sea with eight detected back on acoustic arrays up to 405 days after being tagged. Tiger sharks dove 1136 m and utilised three-dimensional activity spaces averaged at 2360 km3. The Chesterfield Islands appear to be important habitat for sub-adults and adult male tiger sharks. Management strategies need to consider the wide-ranging movements of large (sub-adult and adult) male and female tiger sharks at the individual level, whereas fidelity to specific coastal reefs may be consistent across groups of individuals. Coastal barrier reef MPAs, however, only afford brief protection for large tiger sharks, therefore determining the importance of other oceanic Coral Sea reefs should be a priority for future research.

Code

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083249

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