The dusky shark Carcharhinus obscurus and the bronze whaler Carcharhinus brachyurus are large-bodied, marine predators that inhabit coastal and shelf waters of southern Australia. C. obscurus is considered to be among the most vulnerable pelagic sharks to overexploitation. This study focussed on population metrics and movement patterns of these sympatric species. Litters from two pregnant C. brachyurus were examined; these comprised 20 and 24 embryos, respectively. Tagging data indicated that 75% of whaler sharks tagged in this region by recreational fishers were juveniles, and 58% of recaptures occurred within 50km of the tagging locations. Fishery catch samples comprised 99% juvenile C. brachyurus and C. obscurus. Our findings suggested that semi-protected gulf waters represented ecologically significant habitats of juveniles. A fuzzy-logic model showed that in terms of relative vulnerability to fishing, C. brachyurus ranked in the mid to lower end of the spectrum, when compared with six sympatric pelagic shark species, including the white shark, Carcharodon carcharias. Our findings emphasised a need for improvement to management measures for these carcharhinids, which are likely to play a significant role in the functioning of the temperate gulf and shelf ecosystems.
- ecologically significant habitats