30 Apr 2012

Pacific reef shark populations dwindling around populated islands

5:16 am on 30 April 2012

A new study by American and Canadian researches has found Pacific reef shark populations have plummeted by 90 percent or more over the past several decades.

The study found shark populations fare worse the closer they are to people - even if the nearest population is an atoll with fewer than 100 residents.

The team of eight scientists examined the results of a decade of underwater surveys across 46 Pacific islands and atolls.

It found densities of reef sharks - gray, whitetip and blacktip reef sharks as well as Galapagos and tawny nurse sharks - "increased substantially as human population decreased" and the productivity and temperature of the ocean increased.

The study found that in near populated islands such as the main Hawaiian Islands and American Samoa, there were roughly 26 sharks per square mile.

Remote reefs such as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands or Johnson Atoll, by contrast, boasted 337 sharks per square mile.

Marc Nadon, the study's lead author and a scientist at the University of Hawaii's Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, said in short, people and sharks don't mix.

The study has been published in the journal Conservation Biology.