Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) abundance and growth in a subtropical embayment: evidence from 7 years of standardized fishing effort
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- Wirsing, A.J., Heithaus, M.R. & Dill, L.M. Mar Biol (2006) 149: 961. doi:10.1007/s00227-006-0278-4
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The tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier Peron and Lesueur 1822) is a widely distributed predator with a broad diet and the potential to affect marine community structure, yet information on local patterns of abundance for this species is lacking. Tiger shark catch data were gathered over 7 years of tag and release research fishing (1991–2000, 2002–2004) in Shark Bay, Western Australia (25°45′S, 113°44′E). Sharks were caught using drumlines deployed in six permanent zones (~3 km2 in area). Fishing effort was standardized across days and months, and catch rates on hooks were expressed as the number of sharks caught h−1. A total of 449 individual tiger sharks was captured; 29 were recaptured. Tiger shark catch rate showed seasonal periodicity, being higher during the warm season (Sep–May) than during the cold season (Jun–Aug), and was marked by inter-annual variability. The most striking feature of the catch data was a consistent pattern of slow, continuous variation within each year from a peak during the height of the warm season (February) to a trough in the cold season (July). Annual growth rates of recaptured individuals were generally consistent with estimates from other regions, but exceeded those for populations elsewhere for sharks >275 cm fork length (FL), perhaps because mature sharks in the study area rely heavily on large prey. The data suggest that (1) the threat of predation faced by animals consumed by tiger sharks fluctuates dramatically within and between years, and (2) efforts to monitor large shark abundance should be extensive enough to detect inter-annual variation and sufficiently intensive to account for intra-annual trends.