After analysing more than 2000 hours of coastal shark sightings, researchers have warned that habitats important for juvenile shark survival are not adequately protected.
The new study by The University of Western Australia and partners showed that the most suitable habitats for juvenile sharks in northwest Australia did not overlap well with no-take marine protected areas (MPAs) – areas where no fishing, mining or drilling is allowed.
When overlapping the shark distribution maps with existing and proposed marine reserves in the region, it became clear that although no-take MPAs covered two per cent of the region, they included less than 0.6 per cent of the most suitable habitats for juvenile sharks.
Shark populations are currently declining throughout the world’s oceans due to overfishing and a lack of protection for juveniles could make things worse.
PhD researcher and lead author, Beverly Oh from the UWA Oceans Institute, said that while marine reserves in the region were not specifically designed to protect sharks, previous research has shown that protecting sharks is important for maintaining healthy reefs.
“Identifying key habitats could ultimately help rebuild shark populations,” Ms Oh said.
“Large MPAs are an increasingly popular strategy for protecting the world’s oceans, however the large-scale information needed to assess their effectiveness is lacking for many species.
“At a time when shark populations are declining throughout the world’s oceans due to overfishing, this approach is an essential tool for conservation and management.”
For more information about this shark study, click here. Story credit: University of Western Australia newsroom.
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