About This Project
Deepwater sharks are mysterious animals rarely encountered by humans and among the least studied fish species. To date, no surveys have been conducted on the western edge of the Bahamas to assess the deepwater sharks in this region. Worldwide, fisheries are targeting deeper depths and there is concern some species could become overexploited before preliminary data is collected. There is urgent need to assess species composition and obtain basic biological data.
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What is the context of this research?
This study focuses on the deep water shark species on the western edge of the Great Bahama Bank. The Bimini Sharklab has extensively studied the sharks and rays of the shallow waters near Bimini, however much less is known about the deep water environment. The Bahamas waters are protected as a shark sanctuary, but assessing species utilizing the deep water habitat has yet to be conducted. The geographic range, depth and thermal preferences, and at vessel survival of these species is still being assessed. Taxonomic classification of many deep sea species is still ongoing. Findings from this study will be shared through scientific journals, social media outreach, and educational material to school children.
What is the significance of this project?
Currently, many fish and shark stocks are being depleted, leading fishers to target greater depths. Deep-sea sharks are being harvested through direct targeting and as bycatch. There is concern these species may become over-exploited before data on basic biology and geographical distribution can be collected. Information obtained during this project will be used to better understand the local deep-sea sharks as well as biological characteristics of widely distributed species. Accurate biological data is important for fisheries management and implementing effective conservation. Parameters such as size and age at maturity are important for determining the ability of these species to withstand increased fishing pressure.
What are the goals of the project?
To assess the deep sea shark species of the western Great Bahama Bank to determine the assemblages, size distribution, and seasonality of species occupying this habitat. Surveys will be conducted at depths ranging from 300 to 600 meters to determine drivers of habitat preferences. Establishing baselines of population composition and demographics will allow for longterm monitoring of population trends.
Goals of the project are:
1) Assess species assemblages, seasonality, and population demographics
2) Obtain important biological information such as size at maturity and genetic samples for population structure and identifying cryptic species
The priority of this project is to establish the first thorough sampling of the deep waters on the western edge of the Great Bahama Bank. The Bimini Sharklab has been able to sporadically set deeplines, but the budgeted items will allow them to more sample the waters to the west of Bimini by setting multiple standardized lines each month at depths from 250 to 600 meters depth. Setting across the year, will allow for assessment of seasonality, changes in population structure, and species assemblages. Bimini is a remote island and fuel, travel, and boat usage comprise the primary expenses with operating any research activity.
Meet the Team
This project is a collaboration with the Bimini Sharklab, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Florida State University. The Bimini Sharklab has been studying the elasmobranch community around Bimini for nearly three decades. Dr. Samuel Gruber and Dr. Tristan Guttridge from the Bimini Sharklab, Dr. Dean Grubbs from Florida State University and Dr. Andy Seitz from University of Alaska will advise on this project.
Growing up in Florida I developed a deep appreciation for the marine environment and in particular the role sharks played in ecosystems. I completed my undergraduate and masters degrees at the University of Florida. Currently I am a PhD candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but am stationed full time at the Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation (aka Sharklab). A large part of my dissertation is to assess the species assemblages in the two distinct habitats around Bimini, shallow water sand flats and the deep pelagic. This information will be used to develop a better understanding of the species using the Bahama Shark Sanctuary.
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