Shark population study in a marine wilderness 


Data generated from a major collaborative marine biological survey conducted off the Kimberly coast will be used to help protect one of the world’s most pristine coral reef environments.

Charles Darwin University research fellow, Dr Iain Field was one of the team of scientists that identified the Rowley Shoals as a global benchmark for coral reef conservation with his research focusing on reef shark populations.

“Amidst growing concerns for global reef shark populations, a project has commenced to determine movement and migration patterns for the main shark species at the Rowley Shoals,” he said.

“Although sharks are large charismatic marine predators relatively little is known about their ecology, especially their movement patterns. This is vital information for their conservation.

“This innovative pilot study aims to determine the shark’s reef attendance, movement and local migration patterns.”

The project involves a number of sharks carrying acoustic transmitters, known as ‘pingers’, which transmit individual code to a series of listening stations placed at key locations around the three reefs.

“As sharks swim past one of the listening stations their presence will be logged building a picture of when and where the sharks spend their time.

“Each shark’s ‘pinger’ will transmit for approximately 12 months.”

The project is a collaboration between researchers at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Western Australian Government’s Department of Conservation and Charles Darwin University and has been partially funded by the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Water Resources.

The overarching survey will be vital to the successful future management of the Rowley Shoals Marine Park and the Commonwealth-managed Mermaid Reef National Marine Nature Reserve.

For more information please contact Dr Iain Field on 08 8920 9230.