Study aim and location: Many populations of highly mobile marine fishes, including large sharks, are experiencing declines. The benefits of spatial management zones, such as marine protected areas (MPAs), for such animals are unclear. To help fill this knowledge gap, we examined core habitat use areas (CHUAs) for bull (Carcharhinus leucas), great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran) and tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) in relation to specific MPAs and exclusive economic zones (EEZs) in the western North Atlantic Ocean. Methods: Bull, great hammerhead and tiger sharks (N = 86 total) were satellite tagged and tracked in southern Florida and the northern Bahamas between 2010 and 2013. Filtered and regularized positions from Argos locations of tag transmissions were used to generate CHUAs for these sharks. Overlaps of CHUAs with regional protected areas and exclusive economic management zones were quantified to determine the proportion of each tracked shark's CHUA under spatial protection from exploitation. Results: A total of 0%, 17.9% and 34.7% of the regional CHUAs for tracked bull, great hammerhead and tiger sharks, respectively, were fully protected from exploitation in the study area. Main conclusions: Expansion of protected areas to include U.S. territorial waters would effectively protect 100% of the CHUAs for all tracked sharks in the study area. This finding is particularly significant for great hammerhead sharks, which are currently overfished, vulnerable to bycatch mortality and are the focus of strident regional conservation efforts. These findings also provide a means to inform decision makers and marine conservation planning efforts as to the types of management actions available and potential efficacy of spatial protections for these marine predators.
- Habitat use
- Place-based management
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics