Individual residency behaviours and seasonal long-distance movements in acoustically tagged Caribbean reef sharks in the Cayman Islands

Johanna Kohler, Mauvis Gore, Rupert Ormond, Bradley Johnson, Timothy Austin

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Understanding how reef-associated sharks use coastal waters through their ontogeny is important for their effective conservation and management. This study used the horizontal movements of acoustically tagged Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi) to examine their use of coastal space around the Cayman Islands between 2009 and 2019. A total of 39 (59.1%) tagged sharks (male = 22, female = 17, immature = 18, mature = 21) were detected on the islands wide network of acoustic receivers. The detection data were used to calculate values of Residency Index (RI), Site-Fidelity Index (SFI) and minimum linear displacement (MLD), as well as for network analysis of individual shark movements to test for differences between demographics, seasons, and diel periods. Sharks were detected for up to 1,598 days post-tagging and some individuals showed resident behaviour but the majority of tagged individuals appear to have been one-off or only occasional transient visitors to the area. Generally, individuals showed strong site-fidelity to different areas displaying linear home ranges of < 20 km. The evidence indicates that there was no pattern of diel behaviour. Tagged sharks generally showed increased movements within and between islands during the summer (April-September), which may be related to breeding activity. Some individuals even made occasional excursions across 110 km of open water > 2,000 m deep between Grand Cayman and Little Cayman. One mature female shark showed a displacement of 148.21 km, the greatest distance reported for this species. The data shows that the distances over which some sharks moved, greatly exceeded the extent of any one of the islands' marine protected areas indicating that this species may be more mobile and dispersive than previously thought. This study provides support for the blanket protection to all sharks throughout Cayman waters, which was incorporated within the National Conservation Act in 2015.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0293884
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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