Oceanic nomad or coastal resident? Behavioural switching in the shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)
Pelagic sharks are vulnerable to overfishing because of their low reproductive rates, generally low growth rates, and high catch rates in tuna and billfish fisheries worldwide. Pelagic sharks often migrate long distances, but they may also occur close to shore, making it difficult to classify their behaviour on the continuum from oceanic nomad to coastal resident. This has important implications for fishery management, which must be targeted at an appropriate spatial scale. Conventional tagging indicates that shortfin mako sharks move widely around the southwest Pacific Ocean, but there is little information on their habitat use or mobility in the region. This study deployed electronic tags on 14 mostly juvenile New Zealand mako sharks to investigate their habitat use, and the spatial and temporal scale of their movements. Movement behaviour was classified as Resident or Travel, with the former focused in New Zealand coastal waters, and the latter in oceanic waters around New Zealand and along oceanic ridges running north towards the tropical islands of Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Sharks regularly switched between Resident and Travel behavioural states, but their residency periods sometimes lasted for several months. Sharks spent most of their time in the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone (median 77%, five sharks > 90%), presumably because of the high coastal productivity and access to abundant prey. These results challenge the conventional view that mako sharks are nomadic wanderers, and suggest that fishing mortality should be managed at a local as well as a regional scale.
We thank our NIWA colleagues, Mike Bhana (Wild Film), and recreational fishers for assistance with the capture and tagging of sharks. Special thanks to Sue Tindale for her support in the field. We are grateful to Blanca García (Instituto Español de Oceanografía), for providing information on the recapture of Shark 3, and to Shelley Clarke (WCPFC) for providing unpublished data on the mako shark post-release mortality study. John Annala (MPI) provided invaluable support for this study over many years.
The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries, Guy Harvey Ocean Fund, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Department of Conservation, New Zealand Oil and Gas, South Australia Research and Development Institute, University of Rhode Island, Tindale Marine Research Charitable Trust, and Wild Film Ltd, funded the tags and tagging programme. Preparation of the journal paper was supported through Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment Strategic Science Investment Funding.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards and fish tagging protocols of the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.
The datasets produced by this study are not publicly available because of multiple ownership, but may be requested from the senior author.
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