New study tracks Pacific reef shark numbers – A new survey of Pacific reef sharks has shown that numbers are dwindling dramatically in areas near islands with human populations.
A whitetip reef shark at Palmyra Atoll. Lead author of the study Marc Nadon said: "Reef shark numbers were greatly depressed compared to reefs in the same regions that were simply further away from humans."
Over 1600 surveys were included in the report and provide the first estimates of reef shark losses in the Pacific. Divers were towed along behind a boat allowing them to track this large and mobile species.
Co-author of the study, Julia Baum said: "Reef shark fins are not the most valuable because they tend to be smaller than other sharks, but a lot of other oceanic sharks have already declined a lot so that's why fisherman are now turning to them."
– The study is part of the U.S.'s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program.
A blacktip reef shark. Baum says reef sharks are the "apex predators" of coral reefs and like predators in other eco-systems play important roles in structuring food webs.
The study is published in the online journal Conservation Biology.