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Reef shark movements at Ningaloo Reef

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26 March 2009

Grey reef shark.

Image: Conrad Speed.

Research from the Australian Acoustic Tagging and Monitoring System (AATAMS) shows the effect of water temperature on the movement and distribution of sharks.

The movements of reef sharks at Ningaloo Reef are being tracked by AATAMS, part of the nation-wide collaborative Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS). Long term patterns of habitat use and dispersal will help manage the populations in areas where sharks are vulnerable to habitat degradation due to climate change.

Shifting current patterns, seal-level rise and increasing temperatures affect the availability of prey and suitable habitat for shark populations.

Scientists from Charles Darwin University, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the University of Adelaide and CSIRO have so far tagged 83 sharks and collected thousands of detections of their location.

Conrad Speed, from the School of Environmental Research at Charles Darwin University, is investigating the movement patterns and feeding ecology of black tip, white tip, grey reef, lemon and nervous sharks.

"Movement patterns are monitored using acoustic transmitters, also known as ‘pingers', and a series of receivers along the Ningaloo Reef. Pingers can either be implanted internally or externally tag-mounted" says Mr Speed.

Mr Speed, found that juvenile and adult black tip sharks visit the same inshore areas, but at different times. Sharks have also been found to travel great distances, crossing the borders of marine parks.

"The distances the sharks travel have implications for management and protection of the reef sharks at Ningaloo. One tagged shark was caught by a recreational fisher outside the park border" says Mr Speed.

Active tracking of the sharks provide fine-scale movement patterns to assist determination of home ranges and habitat use. Another 50 sharks are due to be fitted with acoustic tags over the next two years, of which 10 will be continuously tracked.

According to Mr Speed, variations in oceanographic conditions will result from climate change. Tracking sharks will provide a basis for predicting their adaptability over longer time scales.

Conrad Speed will present research on reef shark populations at the GREENHOUSE 2009 conference.

Accredited media are invited to attend the conference. To register your interest or obtain further information please contact Imogen Jubb on 03 9669 4370, 0417 258 020 or email

For further information, please contact:

Conrad Speed, Charles Darwin University

Phone: 08 8920 9210; 0423 282 461

Ms Wendy Ellery , AIMS Media Liaison

Phone: 4753 4409; 0418 729 265

Media Assistance at the Conference:

Imogen Jubb, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research;

Phone: 03 9669 4370, 0417 258 020

Visit the GREENHOUSE 09 website at:

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