Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Changing relative abundance and behaviour of silky and grey reef sharks baited over 12 years on a Red Sea reef

C. R. Clarke A B , J. S. E. Lea A C F and R. F. G. Ormond D E
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Danah Divers, Marine Research Facility, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

B University (of London) Marine Biological Station, Millport, Isle of Cumbrae, Scotland, KA28 0EG, UK.

C University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon, PL4 8AA, UK.

D Marine Conservation International, South Queensferry, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH30 9NW, UK.

E Centre for Marine Biodiversity & Biotechnology, Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, UK.

F Corresponding author. Email: james.lea@plymouth.ac.uk

Marine and Freshwater Research 64(10) 909-919 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF12144
Submitted: 2 June 2012  Accepted: 1 April 2013   Published: 21 June 2013

Abstract

There is a lack of studies on how provisioning may influence shark numbers and behaviour. The effects of long-term provisioning were investigated at a Red Sea reef, where both grey reef shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) and silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) occurred. Initially, grey reef sharks outnumbered silky sharks, but over 6 years, silky shark numbers increased almost 20-fold, whereas grey-reef sightings decreased >90%. Following this, silky-shark sightings also declined considerably (>80%). It is suggested that these declines could relate to local overfishing. Many silky sharks were identified individually through distinctive markings or conventional tagging. Some individual silky sharks were recorded regularly over 2 years or more, but most appeared to be transient visitors. Sighting records indicated that provisioning extended the residency of transient individuals. If visiting silky sharks were drawn from a larger regional population, this would explain both their initial accumulation and why, to begin with, sightings were sustained despite local fishing pressure. Conversely, the site fidelity typical of grey reef sharks would have made them more susceptible to local depletion. Silky sharks were recorded as behaving more boldly when present in greater numbers, but the decline in grey reef sharks appears to be unrelated to the initial increase in the numbers of silky shark.


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