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Advances in understanding the roles and benefits of nursery areas for elasmobranch populations

Heupel, Michelle R., Kanno, Shiori, Martins, Ana P. B., Simpfendorfer, Colin A.
Marine & freshwater research 2019 v.70 no.7 pp. 897-907
management systems, rearing, sharks
Nursery areas are critical to the survival of many marine species, and it is widely accepted that elasmobranch species use nursery areas where they improve species fitness. A 2007 review proposed an approach to identify elasmobranch nursery areas to help clarify their location and use. Here we examine progress towards defining elasmobranch nurseries in the intervening ≥10 years. Many studies have used these criteria, and some have tested their effectiveness, but it is apparent that there is still much to learn. Our current understanding of elasmobranch nurseries is biased towards tropical coastal shark species with few studies of temperate, pelagic, deep-water or batoid species. Recent research has used the criteria to more accurately identify nursery areas, determine that some species may not use them and, at times, improve conservation and management. Results are also revealing that some areas considered to be nurseries do not meet the criteria. Although we have learned a great deal about the location and use of elasmobranch nurseries, there are still several questions to be answered and species to be considered. Continued application of nursery criteria and improved knowledge of nursery areas will lead to improved conservation and management systems.