, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 133-159

The behaviour of sharks

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Despite the recent upsurge of interest in shark research, the current status of knowledge of the behavioural repertoire of most species is alarmingly incomplete. Clearly, from the steadily decreasing numbers of sharks caught by commercial and sport fishermen, sharks are highly vulnerable to human exploitation. Although education is making inroads, there is still steady opposition to the enforcement of catch limits and management strategies for most species. Accurate life history and behavioural information is required to enforce management policies. Wetherbee et al. (1990) cited a case in which commercial fishermen accused the spiny dogfish of stripping the commerical and recreational fisheries of their herring and salmon catch. A detailed study of the spiny dogfish diet disproved their claims.

Sharks are clearly not mindless eating machines, as they have been labelled in the past. They are intelligent and have complex patterns of movement, space utilization, and social organization. Using a combination of remote and direct observational techniques, the scientific community is beginning to have a more complete understanding of these important apex predators in coral reef and oceanic ecosystems. More importantly, researchers who are interested in pursuing the fascinating field of shark behaviour still have a wide choice of direction.