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Investigations into depth and temperature habitat utilization and overwintering grounds of juvenile sandbar sharks, Carcharhinus plumbeus: the importance of near shore North Carolina waters

Conrath, Christina L., Musick, John A.
Environmental biology of fishes 2008 v.82 no.2 pp. 123-131
Carcharhinus, coastal water, fisheries, habitats, overwintering, sharks, summer, survival rate, water temperature, winter, North Carolina, Virginia
Defining the location and habitat characteristics of areas of aggregation of Atlantic shark species has been identified as an important information need for current and future management efforts. The primary objective of this project was to investigate the depths and temperatures of the waters occupied by large juvenile sandbar sharks of the northwest Atlantic population during the winter months and the overwintering localities of these animals using a fishery independent method. During the summer of 2003, 21 sandbar sharks captured in the Eastern Shore of Virginia bays and lagoons were outfitted with satellite transmitters that were programmed to detach during the following winter. The sharks occurred in significantly colder and deeper waters during the winter period than during the summer nursery period with a mean depth and temperature recorded by the transmitters during the winter period of 19.9°C and 20.8 m and a mean depth and temperature recorded during the summer period of 24.0°C and 4.3 m. Despite this decrease in temperature and increase in depth of occurrence, the sharks remained in relatively warm waters and shallow depths throughout the overwintering period. Satellite pop-off locations during the overwintering period were concentrated in central North Carolina coastal waters, where a unique combination of shallow depths and warm temperatures may contribute to the survivorship of these animals while they overwinter in these waters.