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Data from: Discovery of a multi-species shark aggregation and parturition area in the Ba Estuary, Fiji Islands

Cite this dataset

Vierus, Tom et al. (2019). Data from: Discovery of a multi-species shark aggregation and parturition area in the Ba Estuary, Fiji Islands [Dataset]. Dryad.


Population declines in shark species have been reported on local and global scales, with overfishing, habitat destruction and climate change posing severe threats. The lack of species-specific baseline data on ecology and distribution of many sharks, however, makes conservation measures challenging. Here we present a fisheries-independent shark survey from the Fiji Islands, where scientific knowledge on locally occurring elasmobranchs is largely still lacking despite the location’s role as a shark hotspot in the Pacific. Juvenile shark abundance in the fishing grounds of the Ba Estuary (north-western Viti Levu) was assessed with a gillnet- and longline-based survey from December 2015 to April 2016. A total of 103 juvenile sharks identified as blacktip Carcharhinus limbatus (n = 57), scalloped hammerhead Sphyrna lewini (n = 35), and great hammerhead Sphyrna mokarran (n = 11) sharks were captured, tagged, and released. The condition of umbilical scars (68 % open or semi-healed), mean sizes of individuals (± SD) (C. limbatus: 66.5 ± 3.8 cm, S. lewini: 51.8 ± 4.8 cm, S. mokarran 77.4 ± 2.8 cm), and the presence of these species over recent years (based on fishermen interviews), suggest that the Ba Estuary area is a critical habitat for multiple species that are classified as “Near Threatened” or “Endangered”. Specifically, the area likely acts as a parturition ground over the studied period, and potentially as a subsequent nursery area. We identified subareas of high abundance and found that temperature, salinity and depth acted as small-scale environmental drivers of shark abundance. The data suggests a tendency for species-specific spatial use, both horizontally (i.e. between sampling areas) and vertically (i.e. across the water column). These results enhance the understanding of shark ecology in Fiji and provide a scientific basis for the implementation of local conservation strategies that contribute to the protection of these threatened species.

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