Importance of shallow tidal habitats as refugia from trawl fishing for sea snakes

Udyawer, Vinay, Read, Mark, Hamann, Mark, Heupel, Michelle R., and Simpfendorfer, Colin A. (2016) Importance of shallow tidal habitats as refugia from trawl fishing for sea snakes. Journal of Herpetology, 50 (4). pp. 527-533.

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Abstract

Sea snakes are an important component of bycatch in commercial and small-scale trawl fisheries in tropical waters and are highly vulnerable to fishing-related mortality. Extensive boat-based surveys were conducted to investigate the assemblage and abundance of sea snakes within a protected shallow coastal bay adjacent to productive trawl fishing grounds. Spine-Bellied Sea Snakes, Hydrophis curtus (previously Lapemis curtus), and Elegant Sea Snakes, Hydrophis elegans, were the most commonly encountered species. Based on the age structure of these two species, the bay was used primarily by juveniles. Temporal trends in age structure and sex ratios showed that H. curtus may use Cleveland Bay as a nursery ground, with gravid females entering the bay in summer months to give birth. In contrast, H. elegans appears to use the bay more consistently through the year, with similar to 30% of individuals being adults. This study also showed that shallow tidal habitats, too shallow for trawl fishing, are regularly used by sea snakes and may provide refugia for vulnerable life stages. The identification and protection of such habitats may further mitigate risks to sea snake populations from trawl fishing.

Item ID: 47350
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1937-2418
Funders: Australian Government's National Environmental Research Program (NERP), James Cook University
Projects and Grants: NERP Tropical Ecosystems Hub
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2017 07:30
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 100%
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