Shark conservation hindered by lack of habitat protection

Birkmanis, Charlotte A., Partridge, Julian C., Simmons, Leigh W., Heupel, Michelle R., and Sequeira, Ana M.M. (2020) Shark conservation hindered by lack of habitat protection. Global Ecology and Conservation, 21. e00862.

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Many of the world's shark populations are in decline, indicating the need for improved conservation and management. Well managed and appropriately located marine parks and marine protected areas (MPAs) have potential to enhance shark conservation by restricting fisheries and protecting suitable habitat for threatened shark populations. Here, we used shark occurrence records collected by commercial fisheries to determine suitable habitat for pelagic sharks within the Australian continental Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and to quantify the amount of suitable habitat contained within existing MPAs. We developed generalised linear models using proportional occurrences of pelagic sharks for three families: Alopiidae (thresher), Carcharhinidae (requiem), and Lamnidae (mackerel) sharks. We also considered aggregated species from the Lamnidae and Carcharhinidae families ('combined sharks' in the models). Using a set of environmental predictors known to affect shark occurrence, including chlorophyll-a concentration, salinity, sea surface temperature, and turbidity, as well as geomorphological, geophysical, and sedimentary parameters, we found that models including sea surface temperature and turbidity were ranked highest in their ability to predict shark distributions. We used these results to predict geographic regions where habitat was most suitable for pelagic sharks within the Australian EEZ, and our results revealed that suitable habitat was limited in no-take zones within MPAs. For all shark groupings, suitable habitats were found mostly at locations exposed to fishing pressure, potentially increasing the vulnerability of the pelagic shark species considered. Our predictive models provide a foundation for future spatial planning and shark management, suggesting that strong fisheries management in addition to MPAs is necessary for pelagic shark conservation.

Item ID: 62638
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2351-9894
Keywords: Marine protected areas, Species distribution models, Australia, Lamnidae, Carcharhinidae, Alopiidae, Pelagic
Copyright Information: © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (
Funders: Australian Postgraduate Award/Research Training Scheme scholarship, University of Western Australia (UWA), Jock Clough Marine Foundation (JCMF), Australian Research Council (ARC), Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS)
Projects and Grants: UWA top-up scholarship, JCMF Robson and Robertson Award, ARC grant DE170100841
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2020 07:31
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 100%
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