HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Copyright Statement

All rights reserved. This publication is intended for use solely by faculty, students, and staff of Nova Southeastern University. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, now known or later developed, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author or the publisher.

Defense Date


Document Type

Thesis - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Mahmood Shivji

Second Advisor

Bradley M. Wetherbee

Third Advisor

Richard E. Spieler


The blue shark (Prionace glauca) is among the most abundant and widely distributed of all oceanic elasmobranchs. Millions of blue sharks are caught annually worldwide in pelagic long line fisheries, and it accounts for the largest component of auctioned fin weight in the international shark fin trade. There is growing concern about the depletion of its populations worldwide and impacts of such large scale removal of an apex predator on oceanic ecosystem stability. The fragmentary nature of life history information available for blue sharks, including on its detailed movement and migratory behavior, continues to limit management efforts that require such data for stock assessment and sustainable catch modeling. To assist in obtaining a better understanding of blue shark movement behavior in the western north Atlantic, I used satellite telemetry to investigate the detailed habitat utilization and movements of sharks during the summer months when the sharks form aggregations on the continental shelf off the Northeast United States, and during their fall , pelagic migrations. Thirty-one (26 male, 5 female) blue sharks were tagged with pop-up archival satellite transmitters. The transmitters reported data from a total of 1,656 combined days, yielding 74,163 depth recordings and 74,125 temperature recordings. Tracked sharks exhibited two distinct movement patterns: During the summer months, the sharks remained within a restricted geographical area south of Nantucket Island and spent nearly 80% of their time in the uppermost part of the water column in <20 m depth (mean depth of 8 m). During fall months (October and November) the sharks made fairly directed offshore and southerly movements, with several sharks associating with waters east of Bermuda. During their pelagic migrations, the sharks demonstrated markedly different water column utilization behavior. They occupied much greater depths (127 m mean depth) and exhibited a clear diel depth pattern, occupying deeper water during the day and shallower water at night, not observed on the shelf. The longest duration track was that of an immature female for nine months. The greatest distance traveled was by a mature male that moved from Martha's Vineyard, MA to waters near Puerto Rico (a linear distance > 4,000 km). There was some indication that the different demographic groups (mature males, immature males, and immature females) may display different movement behavior, especially during their pelagic migrations. This study provides the first detailed information on habitat utilization and movement patterns of blue sharks in the Western North Atlantic, and points to the need for further investigation of movement behavior by different demographic segments of the population.


Research funded by operational funds to the Guy Harvey Research Institute and grants to Dr. Shivji from the Save Our Seas Foundation.

Files over 10MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "Save as..."

To access this thesis/dissertation you must have a valid nova.edu OR mynsu.nova.edu email address and create an account for NSUWorks.

Free My Thesis

If you are the author of this work and would like to grant permission to make it openly accessible to all, please click the Free My Thesis button.

  Link to NovaCat