Discovering the habits of large ‘bull sharks’ in Seychelles


16-April-2012

A 2.83m female bull shark turned on its back ready to be operated on

These scientists are from the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), l’Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS).

This team was officially brought together under the new Non-Governmental Organisation: Shark Research Foundation Seychelles. This group also included representatives from the department of environment and the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) and was formed to collect and analyse much-needed information on shark populations in Seychelles.

Sharks are essential for healthy marine ecosystems which we, in turn, rely on for food and tourism. Seychelles sets an excellent example for other countries by being one of the first to create a national plan of action for shark management – a move urgently recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organisation in response to dramatic declines in shark numbers worldwide.

This management plan highlights the shocking lack of information on which species we have; their relative abundance and what their basic habits are. All of this information is vital for forming effective management plans for the sustainable use of sharks in Seychelles waters.

This information will also help us better understand the reasons behind the tragic events of last year and to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

For the recent round of tagging, the team set out at dawn for four days in a row, using the knowledge and skills of the fishermen to catch the sharks and the expertise of the scientists to attach electronic tracking devices to them.

The IRD representatives provided expert training to members of the ASFA, MCSS and SFA which resulted in three large bull sharks being successfully tagged with internal acoustic transmitters as well as external satellite tags. This will provide detailed information on their movements over the coming months. This work also contributes to two ongoing shark research programmes being run cooperatively by the SFA, SNPA and MCSS – SEYSHA that was designed to track movements and elucidate habitat usage by reef sharks around Mahe, and the Global Environment-funded small grants programme multi-species tracking project at the Bay Ternay Marine Park. The latter project has involved using acoustic tags on turtles, rays and groupers as well as sharks and has a large component which comprises community awareness and involvement.

Working with local fishers and being able to use their knowledge has been instrumental in the success of the projects so far. These fishermen also learned more about the goals of the projects and how to take part in them and the future benefits for the sustainable use of species for generations to come. 

Contributed by the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles

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