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Identifying site fidelity and important aggregation habitats of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) through acoustic telemetry in South Australian waters

Project Summary

Research on the movement patterns of white sharks have shown that while they travel extensively across their range in Australian waters, they have preferred habitat sites that they may temporarily reside in and regularly re-visit (Bruce et al. in press) Bruce 2008, Bruce et al. 2006). In South Australia, one such site is the Neptune Islands and unsurprisingly much of our knowledge of white sharks in South Australian waters comes from research based at this site. However, despite the large number of sharks tagged at this site, sightings of tagged sharks away from the Neptune Islands in other parts of South Australia are few. Yet encounters with white sharks in certain areas other than the Neptune Islands are not uncommon. In other areas of the world, white sharks have shown a high degree of site fidelity such that animals visiting and temporarily residing at one location are not seen at other sites where other groups of white sharks commonly visit (Jorgensen et al. 2009, Domeier and Nasby-Lucas 2007, Weng et al. 2007). It is thus likely that there may be other important sites for white sharks similar to the Neptune Islands in South Australian waters. Defining the locations of other areas of important habitat and the connectivity between them is important for understanding how to effectively protect and recover white shark populations. This project aims to identify such key habitats for white sharks in South Australian waters.

Aims and Objectives
The overall aim of the project is to define other important habitat areas for white sharks and the pathways between them. Specific objectives are to:

1.Establish the frequency and duration of visitation of sharks tagged at North Neptune Island to other seal colonies.
2.Determine residence times and site fidelity to these specified sites
3.Examine the fidelity of sharks tagged at alternative sites to the Neptune Islands
4.Determine the timing and rates of movement of white sharks between these areas
5.Test the corridor theory by placing stations at island groups within this corridor
6.Build on existing knowledge on site fidelity and population dynamics by integrating with the current Australia-wide CSIRO program on white sharks
7.Provide data to management agencies to enhance protection for the species from commercial fisheries in key habitat areas.

For more information on this project and our research program, please contact Dr Rachel Robbins.

This project will run collaboratively with a CSIRO-led project examining the broad-scale movements of white sharks in Australian waters and utilising an extensive network of acoustic listening stations around the Australian coastline administered under Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (see http://imos.org.au/aatams.html).