, Volume 152, Issue 4, pp 877-894
Date: 17 Jul 2007

Migration and habitat of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) in the eastern Pacific Ocean

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Abstract

Satellite telemetry studies of 20 adult and sub-adult white sharks (360–530 cm estimated total length (TL)) in the eastern North Pacific during 1999–2005 revealed long distance seasonal migrations from the coast of California to an offshore focal area 2,500 km west of the Baja Peninsula, as well as the Hawaii Islands. Three tags were recovered allowing detailed behavioral analyses, including one shark’s migration cycle from the coast to the offshore focal area and back. While near pinniped rookeries in autumn and winter, sharks avoided the surface and used water to 50 m depth, consistent with a silhouette-based hunting strategy. Offshore migrations were initiated during November–March and followed periods of decreasing pinniped abundance. Migrations were highly directed, taking 23 ± 5 days to reach the offshore focal area along similar paths among sharks and years, defining a migration corridor. Sharks exhibited a broad depth distribution (0–644 m) in the offshore focal area, and remained there for up to 167 days during spring and summer, though primary productivity and fishery data suggest that forage resources are scarcer there than in other regions of the eastern North Pacific. Archival data from one shark revealed intensive oscillatory movements while in the offshore focal area, a behavior that may be related to foraging or mating. Sharks traveling to Hawaii remained near the islands up to 122 days, potentially feeding on pelagic fishes and marine mammals that concentrate around the islands.

Communicated by J.P. Grassle.