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The Shark Assemblage at French Frigate Shoals Atoll, Hawai‘i: Species Composition, Abundance and Habitat Use

February 10, 2011

We used longline surveys to quantify the shark assemblage at French Frigate Shoals (FFS) atoll from May to August 2009. Fishing effort consisted of 189 longline sets totaling 6,862 hook hours of soak time.

Empirical data on the abundance and habitat preferences of coral reef top predators are needed to evaluate their ecological impacts and guide management decisions. We used longline surveys to quantify the shark assemblage at French Frigate Shoals (FFS) atoll from May to August 2009. Fishing effort consisted of 189 longline sets totaling 6,862 hook hours of soak time. A total of 221 sharks from 7 species were captured, among which Galapagos (Carcharhinus galapagensis, 36.2%), gray reef (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos, 25.8%) and tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier, 20.4%) sharks were numerically dominant. A lack of blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) distinguished the FFS shark assemblage from those at many other atolls in the Indo-Pacific. Compared to prior underwater visual survey estimates, longline methods more accurately represented species abundance and composition for the majority of shark species. Sharks were significantly less abundant in the shallow lagoon than adjacent habitats. Recaptures of Galapagos sharks provided the first empirical estimate of population size for any Galapagos shark population. The overall recapture rate was 5.4%. Multiple closed population models were evaluated, with Chao Mh ranking best in model performance and yielding a population estimate of 668 sharks with 95% confidence intervals ranging from 289–1720. Low shark abundance in the shallow lagoon habitats suggests removal of a small number of sharks from the immediate vicinity of lagoonal islets may reduce short-term predation on endangered monk seal (Monachus schauinslandipups, but considerable fishing effort would be required to catch even a small number of sharks. Additional data on long-term movements and habitat use of sharks at FFS are required to better assess the likely ecological impacts of shark culling.


Dale JJ, Stankus AM, Burns MS, Meyer CG. 2011. The Shark Assemblage at French Frigate Shoals Atoll, Hawaiʻi: Species Composition, Abundance and Habitat Use. PLoS ONE 6(2): e16962. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016962

Last updated by Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center on 09/09/2021