A Mozambican marine protected area provides important habitat for vulnerable pelagic sharks

Murie CJG, Lebrato M, Lawrence A, et al (2023) A Mozambican marine protected area provides important habitat for vulnerable pelagic sharks. Sci Rep 13:6454. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-32407-9

Pelagic sharks play key roles in marine ecosystems, but are increasingly threatened by human extraction, habitat degradation and mismanagement. We investigated the use of protected and unprotected coastal habitats by bull (Carcharhinus leucas) and oceanic blacktip (Carcharhinus limbatus) sharks in southern Mozambique. Five INNOVASEA VR2W-69 kHz acoustic receivers were positioned in the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park (BANP) as well as one to the south of the park’s boundaries. Seven receivers were also deployed 250 km south in the Inhambane estuary and on reef sites off Praia de Tofo. Twelve bull, and six oceanic blacktip sharks, were fitted with INNOVASEA V16 acoustic tags, which generated 933 detections of bull and 12,381 detections of oceanic blacktip sharks over a period of 1391 days. A generalised additive model was used to estimate the effects of seven spatiotemporal and environmental parameters on the frequency of each species’ detections. In general, calculated residency indices were highest around the locations monitored in the BANP and one unprotected location off Tofo. Both species were more abundant across the monitored sites, during the summer when water temperatures were ~ 27 °C, when the moon was < 50% illuminated, and when the tide was rising. Detections coincided with each species’ reproductive season indicating that both species may be reproductively active in the BANP region. Oceanic blacktip sharks were largely resident and so fisheries management may significantly benefit their population(s) around certain reef habitats in the BANP. The low residency and seasonal detections of bull sharks indicates that they may be transient and so effective conservation may require coordination between regional fisheries managers.