I recently travelled south of Sydney to Jervis Bay as part of a research project to examine the social structure of a Port Jackson Shark breeding group using novel acoustic monitoring and genetic techniques to collect behavioural and movement data from these mysterious marine animals
Understanding why sharks get together in large groups is essential for assessing their vulnerability to human threats such as overfishing and habitat destruction. In 2012, a pilot study was conducted to examine the social network of Port Jackson Sharks in the Jervis Bay Marine Park using two new acoustic monitoring techniques. The results indicated that groups of Port Jackson Shark are not comprised of a random assortment of individuals and sharks vary in their level of sociability. In addition, the two new monitoring techniques used in this study produced similar results indicating that either of these technologies can now be used to protect and learn about the social structure and movement patterns on a wide range of marine species.
This work is now continuing in 2013 to further explore the diversity of social behaviour of Port Jackson Shark groups sites in Jervis Bay and Sydney and assess the influence of genetic relationships on their social structure. Genetic and acoustic techniques will also be used to examine Port Jackson Shark movement and migration patterns and levels of population structure around Australia. This work is being conducted in collaboration by us with Macquarie University, NSW Fisheries, University of Adelaide and Bimini Biological Field Station.
Research and Conservation Coordinator, Jo