In the 8 March 2012 issue of PLoS ONE, Ellen Pikitch, professor in the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, and colleagues used video cameras to count Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi) inside and outside marine reserves on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef in the Caribbean Sea. Using survey data collected from 200 baited remote underwater video (BRUV) cameras, nicknamed “chum cams,” the scientists compared the relative abundance of these reef sharks in two marine reserves with those in two areas where fishing is allowed, and demonstrated that the sharks were more abundant in the reserves. The purpose of the study, conducted from 2005 through 2010, was to test the hypothesis that carcharhinid shark species, which include requiem and whaler sharks, are more abundant inside no-take marine reserves where fishing for sharks and their prey is prohibited. The authors tested the hypothesis by using BRUV surveys to determine the reef sharks’ numbers, and combined these results with acoustic monitoring to measure their site fidelity (remaining within the same local area) in Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, Caye Caulker Marine Reserve, and two reefs where fishing is allowed, all located in Belize. “Caribbean reef sharks and other shark species around the world are threatened by overfishing,” said Pikitch. “Our study demonstrates that marine reserves can help protect shark species that live on coral reefs. Moreover, the use of underwater video monitoring provides us with an excellent tool to determine if populations are recovering and thriving inside these reserves.”
Read the paper, Reef Sharks Exhibit Site-Fidelity and Higher Relative Abundance in Marine Reserves on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, on the PloS One website.
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