Sunday, April 21, 2013

Reef Sharks - new Papers!

Grey Reef aggregation - likely in Apataki's Trou aux Requins - stellar pic by Chip!

Great stuff!

This first paper is about Grey Reefies.
It's by the authors of the Fiji Shark tourism paper and really a nice piece of research - and kudos to Gabe on the first authorship!
Rather surprisingly, it caused quite a kerfuffle on Patric's blog - but as I said there, Patric's comments are a tad harsh, the more as that particular species is not a frequent target of the long liners. 
But the general gist, i.e. that publishing data about philopatry carries some inherent risks is of course correct. I did blog about it here and came to the conclusion that such data should be used for conservation and management purposes and only be shared widely if there is robust and above all, fully enforced local protection - something that certainly pertains to Palau, especially for the popular and highly visited stretch between Siae's and New Dropoff!

Nice re-cap here
And yes Patric - Palau lays east of the Philippines (not north, south or west)! 
And... ? :)

This paper is about Blacktip Reef Sharks.
Inter alia, this one is by the authors of that Lemon Shark paper who continue their observations and in-depth analysis of the Shark Population of French Polynesia as part of the ORP and CRIOBE.
It investigates the genetic makeup of the Blacktip population in several of those islands and describes that it is highly fragmented, meaning that gene flow (= Sharks traveling between populations) is low. The conclusion it draws is that in order to protect Sharks, it is better to establish Shark Sanctuaries rather than to try and protect them via MPAs.

Well, yes, that is certainly true in general - the bigger the better!
On the other hand, as a staunch lumper, I cringe at the recent trend of splitting everything. There are several ignominious examples from Avian, Amphibian and freshwater Fish taxonomy where the designation of many sub-species hast resulted in a plethora of tiny local populations, and subsequently, in the squandering of scarce public resources in the quest of preserving every single one of them - and this fatally reminds me of those occurrences. 
With Shark conservation being as difficult as it is, I'd be quite happy to see progress at the species-complex level - the more as otherwise, most of those tiny populations would succumb to the requirement of prioritizing one's resources by applying conservation triage!
But yes those Sanctuaries are great - at least for as long as Shark fishing remains so poorly managed!

And what about the implications for us here in Fiji?
The first one is that with such high residency levels, the Shark Corridor offers a substantial degree of protection much like in the case of our Bulls.

Other than that, we don't know - yet!
In Juerg's research, we've so far concentrated almost exclusively on the Bulls. But we have also recorded many observations about the other species, and our data base undoubtedly contains the answers to several of the same questions - that is, if somebody had the time to analyze them! But fear not, Juerg's next paper is already in the works, and it will contain much more info about the other species!
Of interest and contrary to all other Grey Reef aggregation sites I have visited, the SRMR harbors more males than females who however also appear more transient much like the Bulls and also leave for what we believe is the mating season in mid year. 
The Blacktips on the other hand appear to be very much resident, and it will be interesting to explore whether the females go walkabout to some nursery area like those in Moorea - which is highly likely as contrary to the Whitetips that appear to give birth in situ, we see zero small juveniles!

Anyway, I'm digressing as always.
Read the papers - it's great stuff, and kudos to the authors on a job well done!

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