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Movement patterns of juvenile sand tigers (Carcharias taurus) along the east coast of the USA


To date, movement patterns of juvenile sand tigers (Carcharias taurus) along the east coast of the USA have been loosely defined. Given the magnitude of the purported decline in the sand tiger population in the western North Atlantic (WNA), characterization of the species’ movement patterns throughout this broad area is essential for the effective management and recovery of this population. Using passive acoustic telemetry, pop-up satellite archival transmitting tags, and conventional fishery-dependent tag/recapture data, seasonal movements of juvenile sand tigers (ages 0–2 years; <125 cm fork length) were monitored between Maine and Florida along the US east coast from 2007 to 2013. Collectively, tag data indicated that juvenile sand tigers undergo extensive seasonal coastal migrations moving between summer (June–October) habitat (Maine to Delaware Bay) and winter (December–April) habitat (Cape Hatteras to central Florida) during the spring (April–June) and fall/early winter (October–December). Juvenile sand tigers occurred in a wide range of temperatures (9.8–26.9 °C) throughout the year, but spent the majority of their time in water from 12 to 20 °C. Given the extensive movements and continuous utilization of relatively shallow (<80 m) nearshore waters exhibited by these relatively small individuals throughout their first years of life, it is imperative that precautions be taken to limit negative effects of anthropogenic interactions on this species (i.e., fisheries bycatch, coastal degradation) in an effort to rebuild and sustain the WNA population.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge Dave Lindamood for enabling the initial documentation of sharks in PKD Bay, Donald Beers, and the Duxbury Harbormaster’s Office for providing dockage during sampling, Andy Danylchuk for providing acoustic tags, receivers, and creative input, and Ben Galuardi for his help with PSAT geolocation analyses. Thanks also to Nancy Kohler, Pat Turner, Lisa Natanson, and Ruth Briggs of the NMFS Apex Predators Program/Cooperative Shark Tagging Program for providing fishery-dependent tag and recapture data. This study would not have been possible without the volunteer members of the ACT Network who provided detection data including: Dewayne Fox and Lori Brown (Delaware State University); Jennifer Cudney and Andrea Dell’Apa (East Carolina University); Keith Dunton (Stony Brook University); Eric Reyier (IHA Environmental Services); Matt Bolus (University of Massachusetts Amherst); Bill Hoffman (Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries); Tom Savoy (Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection); Elizabeth Miller (South Carolina Department of Natural Resources); Matthew Balazik (Virginia Commonwealth University); Michael Loeffler (North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources); and Carter Watterson (US Navy). This research was funded by awards from the NOAA Proactive Conservation Program, the Sea World Conservation Society, and the Massachusetts Environmental Trust as well as support from the Federal Aid in Sportfish Restoration Act. This is Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Contribution No. 47.

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Correspondence to Jeff Kneebone.

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Communicated by J. Houghton.

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Kneebone, J., Chisholm, J. & Skomal, G. Movement patterns of juvenile sand tigers (Carcharias taurus) along the east coast of the USA. Mar Biol 161, 1149–1163 (2014).

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  • Nursery Habitat
  • National Marine Fishery Service
  • Essential Fish Habitat
  • Sand Tiger
  • Atlantic State Marine Fishery Commission