Conservation ecology of North Atlantic shark populations.

Worldwide, shark populations are suffering from overexploitation and high incidental mortality rates. In particular the North Atlantic Ocean has experienced severe declines of many shark species over the last decades. However, a scientific basis for comprehensive protection measures is still lacking for many species. Therefore, this project is concerned with the delineation and characterization of critical habitat areas and the expansion of stock assessment methods for data-poor shark species, in order to aid spatial management and to provide scientific information on reference points and exploitation levels for data-poor shark species. The results will help to develop a more comprehensive science-based protection of threatened North Atlantic shark populations.

Many of today’s stock assessment methods rely on growth or age information. However, there is a scarcity of biological information in sharks and hence details on age and growth are often absent. Likewise, there is a lack of fisheries data and suitable models in order to assess shark species. Consequently the status of most species is unknown, in particular in developing countries or in shark species that are difficult to age, such as the Greenland shark. In order to allow for relatively simple to apply data-poor assessment, novel empirical relationships of life history traits in sharks will be developed first. This information can be utilized to predict life history parameters for shark species where this information is absent. Next, the performance of newly developed and existing age-independent assessment methods will be investigated. The best performing method will be applied to investigate the stock status and sustainable exploitation levels of species like the Greenland shark in the Canadian Arctic. However, recovery, conservation and management programs solely based on assessments might not be sufficient for species like sharks with low rebound potentials and recovery rates. Pupping grounds, nursery areas and spawning grounds are critical for recruitment success and adequate protection of these sites could increase survival and resilience. Therefore, the second part of this project will investigate the spatial ecology of North Atlantic shark populations. Here, the aim is to identify important habitat areas of several shark species, understand their characteristics and drivers that affect habitat use and investigate the overlap with human activities. The results will aid effective shark protection, the prediction of potential important habitats elsewhere and provide scientific information for spatial management priority sites. In addition to existing datasets, two tagging programs are conducted, one on Canadian Atlantic blue sharks and one on shark communities in Cabo Verde, West Africa. The latter is part of a recently established Cabo Verde Elasmobranch Research Project, initiated by the Worm Lab in collaboration with the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) and local partners.

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

Manuel Dureuil
Ph.D. Student, Dalhousie University
Email: Manuel.Dureuil@dal.ca
Phone: +1 902 494 2478 (office)

SUPERVISOR

Dr. Boris Worm (Dalhousie University) Canada

CO-SUPERVISOR

Dr. Rainer Froese (GEOMAR) Germany

TYPE/STATUS OF PROJECT

Scientific research (In progress)

Contact Information
Principal Investigator
Manuel Dureuil
Ph.D. Student
Biology Department Dalhousie University
1459 Oxford St.
PO BOX 15000
Halifax, NS B3H 4R2
Canada
Supervisor
Boris Worm
Professor
Biology Department Dalhousie University
1355 Oxford St.
PO BOX 15000
Halifax, NS B3H 4R2
Canada