SUFB 090: Great White Shark Abundance and Seasonal Trends in the North West Atlantic Ocean

Speak Up For Blue Podcast

We’re going to focus today on a study concerning the decent white shark. Some may call it great, I’m an invertebrate guy myself so in my mind the shark is just kind of ehh. But we’ll go with decent today. Today’s research article is a study published in June of 2014 in PLOS One entitled “Seasonal Distribution and Historic Trends in Abundance of White Sharks, Carcharodon carcharias, in the Western North Atlantic Ocean.” As we’ve mentioned in earlier posts this week, not much is known about the white shark’s ecology. Studies like these, then, are crucial to developing a fundamental knowledge of their population distribution and abundance throughout their habitat.

Using historical fishing data collected throughout the Atlantic coast of the United States, the authors observed that though white sharks are present year round on the northwestern Atlantic continental shelf, their abundance fluctuates with the seasons. During the warmer spring and summer months, most white sharks in this study were hanging out around New Jersey and Massachusetts sipping on Narragansett beer and listening to Bon Jovi. However, in the cooler months they head south to Florida. Since this data was collected from fishing vessels, the authors were also able to determine that most interactions between man and shark occurred when vessels used rod and reel, longline, or gillnet fishing methods.

The data also showed that up until the 70s and 80s, the white shark population was experiencing significant population declines due to bycatch mortality and fishing pressure. Around the mid 80s, however, the species began to rebound ever so slightly. This is no doubt a testament to Bon Jovi (which we already established is the white shark’s favorite band), as they began to put out just gem after gem of motivational rock anthems during the time frame that coincided with increases in white shark sightings. Bon Jovi also inspired greater protection for white sharks, by penning the touching declaration of support for this charismatic marine predator titled “I’ll Be There For You.” This greater level of protection ultimately helped the species get back on track. Though they’re certainly not out of the woods, as white sharks are k-selected species and therefore are susceptible to population declines, the data suggests that we are on the right path. This type of study can greatly inform management of white sharks, as it contributes to our ever growing body of knowledge on the ecology and behavior of these crucial marine animals.



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