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Sharks in the Shallows:An Assessment of Coastal Shark Distribution Patterns in the Florida Keys Archipelago

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Abstract

Oceanic shark and ray populations have declined by 71% due to an 18-fold increase in fishing pressure over the past 50 years (Pacoureau et al., 2021). While a significant amount of work has been done to document oceanic shark declines worldwide, there is still a knowledge gap surrounding the conservation status of reef-associated sharks globally (MacNeil et al., 2020). Asthe world’s coastlines and nearshore environments continue to experience increased pressure from human population growth, understanding the conservation status of sharks has become even more important. This study used presence/absence data to determine physical and anthropogenic factors that influenced shark distributions in the Florida Keys. An assessment of the habitat use patterns of local species can inform site-specific and species-specific protections(Rizzari et al., 2014). By increasing our knowledge of coastal shark distributions, abundances and habitat associations along the Florida Keys, the results of this study can help assess each species' risk from exposure to fishing, habitat degradation and climate change impacts. This study found that shark occurrences in the Florida Keys were highly influenced by the percentageof reef habitat along the reef tract. Region of the keys was also an important predictor of shark occurrences. Based on the findings of this study, several management recommendations specific to shark conservation are presented to increase habitat protection and minimize of fishingpressure on sharks.

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This item is under embargo until July 21, 2024.