HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

Second Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Mahmood Shivji

Second Advisor

Bradley M. Wetherbee

Third Advisor

Samuel Purkis


Large population declines for sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus) in parts of its global range are well documented, resulting in a strong need for biologically informed conservation and management measures. Although sand tigers in the western North Atlantic have been listed as a Species of Concern by the US government since 1997, details of their seasonal migratory movements and especially vertical habitat use patterns along the US East Coast are limited. Understanding these movement patterns is vital to reducing fishery-related mortality of these sharks and informing other management efforts aimed at recovery of their stocks in the US Atlantic. Although survey and fishery-dependent data have revealed a general picture of the seasonal distribution patterns of sand tiger sharks, details of the areas specifically used by these sharks and their movements between such areas remain unclear. Additionally, information on vertical habitat use such as preferred depth and temperature, as well as variability observed among sexes, size classes and geographic locations would provide insight into the fine-scale distribution of sand tigers to aid better management practices. Here, I report on the horizontal and vertical movements of sand tiger sharks along the US East Coast determined through use of pop-up archival transmitter (PAT) tags and supplemental acoustic telemetry. PAT tags were deployed on 14 sand tiger sharks in Delaware Bay in late summer 2008. Sufficient archived depth and temperature data were obtained from 11 sharks (eight male, three female), and sufficient light data allowed construction of long-term horizontal tracks for 10 sharks (seven male, three female) using a Kalman filter state-space model. Duration of tag deployment per animal ranged from 64-154 days ( =121.6). All seven male sharks left Delaware Bay in late summer/early autumn and migrated south along the US East Coast reaching waters off North Carolina, where they remained until transmitter detachment during the winter months. In contrast, all three females moved out of Delaware Bay into deeper, offshore waters east of the bay near the continental slope. During southern migration of males, average depth utilized was positively correlated to shark size. The smallest males spent on average over 90% of their time in waters <40 >m, whereas intermediate and large sized males spent only 54 and 38% of their time at depths <40 >m, respectively. Female sharks spent an average of 46% of their time in waters range, spending at least 95% of their time in waters 17-23oC, with little difference between size classes or sexes. Horizontal movements of male migrating sand tigers also revealed several areas of concentrated activity along their southern migratory routes. Migratory patterns of sand tiger sharks along the US East Coast appear most similar to patterns displayed by this species along the coast of South America. Further delineation of western North Atlantic continental shelf and slope core areas of sand tiger shark activity, especially for females, will inform efforts to reduce interactions with commercial fisheries and measures to avoid habitat degradation - management aspects that will aid in reducing mortality and enhance rebuilding of sand tiger stocks along the US East Coast.

EPSON009.PDF (40 kB)
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