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Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


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Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

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Coral Reef Studies

From 2005 to 2022, the main node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland (Australia)

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Commercial fishing for sharks in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park; consequences of life histories for management


12pm - 1pm Thursday 5 April 2012

Sir George Fisher Building Conference Room #114 (DB32 upstairs)
Alastair V. Harry, Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture & Earth and Environmental Sciences

Abstract: Queensland’s largest fishery geographically is the East Coast Inshore Finfish Fishery (ECIFF). In recent years this fishery has been the focus of controversy surrounding its harvest of sharks. Historical catch of sharks in this fishery peaked at around 1400t in 2004, and, after a management review in 2009, a conservative 600t total allowable catch was set, including 450t in the Marine Park itself. The large geographic area, relatively low-value and ephemeral nature of this fishery has made monitoring of the catch difficult. Fishers typically target seasonal aggregations of higher-value teleosts (e.g. grey mackerel, Scomberomorus semifasciatus), and reporting of sharks, which can be a dominant part of the catch, has been poor. As the fishery occurs within the GBRMP it is closely scrutinised by the general public and stakeholder groups making effective and defensible science-based management especially important. I present my PhD research that aimed to provide better catch, life history and ecological information to aid management. I find that catch composition included a diverse range of approximately 40 sharks and rays. The most commonly caught species were Carcharhiniformes from the families Carcharhinidae (whaler sharks), Sphyrnidae (hammerhead sharks) and Hemigaleidae (weasel sharks). Biological samples were collected from the more commonly caught species during observer surveys and were used to determine life history characteristics. Many of the closely-related species have similarities in their biology. However, the diverse range of body sizes (70cm-5m in maximum length), ages at maturity (1-12 years) and growth rates means they differ greatly in their biological productivity. I discuss the consequences of shark life histories for managing tropical shark fisheries in the GBR and worldwide. The diversity of life history strategies, complex population structuring and sex-segregation, as well hybridisation between two of the most common species are identified as potential hurdles to sustainable management of the ECIFF.

Biography:  I am originally from Adelaide in South Australia where I completed my BSc in Marine Biology at Flinders University and did my Honours research on the spatial ecology of lemon sharks at a research facility in the Caribbean. After working briefly as a marine ecologist studying upwelling and nutrient cycling on South Australian beaches, I decided to pursue my interest in sharks further and completed a PhD with the Fishing & Fisheries Research Centre, JCU in 2011. My PhD research focused on the life history of Queensland’s commercially fished sharks and I am interested in how information on their biology can be used to improve conservation and fisheries management.


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