Year of Publication

2017

Season of Publication

Spring

Paper Type

Master's Thesis

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (MS)

Department

Biology

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Biology

First Advisor

Eric Johnson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Carolyn Belcher

Third Advisor

James Gelsleichter

Department Chair

Cliff Ross, Ph.D.

College Dean

Daniel Moon, Ph.D.

Abstract

Gill nets and longlines were compared as shark nursery sampling methodologies in inshore waters of Georgia to (1) assess differences in gear selectivity, bias, and stress of capture and (2) determine potential relationships between habitat features and shark distribution and abundance. Gear selectivity varied between gears as a function of both species and life stage resulting in significantly different estimates of species and life stage compositions. Juvenile bonnetheads (Sphyrna tiburo) and young of the year blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus) experienced significantly higher stress from gill net capture than longline. Major sources of bias are thought to result from dietary preferences and individual size. Juvenile sandbar shark (C. plumbeus) distribution revealed a potential preference for creeks rather than sounds, between 0.32-0.8km wide and 4.02-8.05km from the ocean. Adult Atlantic sharpnose sharks (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae) appear to prefer larger, open sound waters closer to the ocean. A potential preference for locations in close proximity to jetties over those near oyster reefs was also observed for adult Atlantic sharpnose sharks, and while statistical significance was observed, a stronger pattern may exist, as sample sizes in this study were relatively small yet still able to detect a difference. Future investigations that quantify proportions of habitat availability and shark abundance in a given area may be more useful for identifying preferences for the structures observed in this study. This study also provides strong evidence of finetooth shark (C. isodon) primary and potentially secondary nursery habitat in areas that had not yet been documented. Findings from these investigations can be useful for managers seeking to maintain healthy coastal shark populations.

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