Seasonal occurrence, relative abundance, and migratory movements of juvenile sandbar sharks, Carcharhinus plumbeus, in Winyah Bay, South Carolina


In the past decade along the U.S. East coast, the overfished western North Atlantic stock of Carcharhinus plumbeus has been recovering; however, research investigating C. plumbeus habitats and seasonal habitat shifts is lacking. Accordingly, we studied the seasonal residency, catch abundance, and distribution of juvenile C. plumbeus in Winyah Bay, SC, as well as their migration patterns along the western North Atlantic. We set 303 bottom longlines from May through September in 2016 and 2017 and deployed 11 Vemco (V16-4H) acoustic transmitters in juvenile C. plumbeus. Catch abundance did not differ by month or year (p = 0.45) and was not significantly influenced by any tested water parameter (p = 0.58). C. plumbeus catches were dominated by individuals measuring 81–100 cm precaudal length, and mean size only significantly differed by year (p = 0.02) with slightly larger sharks (86.8 cm PCL) caught in 2017 than 2016 (81.4 cm PCL). Tidal stage and Bay region were positively correlated with catches (p = 0.02). From August 2016 through January 2019, juveniles were detected in Winyah Bay from April to November for 1–302 non-consecutive days (μ ± SE = 108.1 ± 32.6 days), with six juveniles exhibiting interannual return. Detection frequency and presence differed by Bay region, with most detections nearshore and in Lower Bay, fewest in Middle Bay, and none in Upper Bay. This study had two primary findings: monitored sharks utilized a previously unknown southern overwintering migration route, and Winyah Bay serves as a secondary nursery for C. plumbeus.

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Funding for this research was provided by a Graduate Incentive Grant and Quality Enhancement Program funding from Coastal Carolina University, as well as the M.K. Pentecost Ecology Fund. External tags were provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Cooperative Atlantic Shark Pupping and Nursery surveys. We thank Dr. Michael D. Arendt for his extensive advice and assistance with telemetry analysis. We also thank Dr. Robert Young for his assistance with this work. We also thank all the members involved in the Atlantic Cooperative Telemetry (ACT) Network and the Florida Atlantic Coast Telemetry (FACT) Network. Specifically, we would like to thank the following members for sending detection data: Dr. Michael D. Arendt, Bryan Frazier, Dr. Bryan Keller, Liz Vineyard, Elizabeth Miller, J. Carter Watterson, Ella Rothermel, Danielle Haulsee, Mark D’Ecrole, Evan Ingram, Dr. Eric Reyier, Kimberly Roberson, Christopher Kalinowsky, Morgan Hart, and Joy Young. This project would also not have been possible without the numerous volunteers that participated in the field work, specifically Matt Larsen, Emily Asp, Amy Grogan, and Nick Picha. We also thank Captains Edwin Jayroe and Sam Gary for their assistance in the field.

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Correspondence to Caroline Collatos.

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A breakdown of the 303 longlines set by month, year, and Bay region. Please note that in June 2017 Middle Bay was not surveyed due to boat and weather limitations (PDF 117 kb)

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Collatos, C., Abel, D.C. & Martin, K.L. Seasonal occurrence, relative abundance, and migratory movements of juvenile sandbar sharks, Carcharhinus plumbeus, in Winyah Bay, South Carolina. Environ Biol Fish 103, 859–873 (2020).

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  • Sandbar shark
  • Seasonal presence
  • Habitat
  • Nursery area
  • Migration
  • Acoustic telemetry