A shark nursery was discovered in the Sal Rey bay, Boa Vista Island, Cape Verde, according to a study published in Frontiers in Marine Science. A team of Portuguese researchers from the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, Portugal, found the area is home to juveniles of several endangered species, including the hammerhead shark.
Most sharks are at the top of the food chain. However, when they’re young, they may be vulnerable. They have slow growth rates and are late to reach maturity. As a result, shark populations have plummeted over the past few years, namely driven by intense fishing pressure. Inevitably, this has consequences for their sustainability and conservation. Researchers are aware of these problems and are keen to identify and protect areas used as shark nurseries. “Identifying and protecting nursery areas is crucial for the conservation of sharks, one of the most endangered animal groups in the world,” highlighted Rui Rosa, from the University of Lisbon and lead author of this study.
During this study, the team monitored the real movements of sharks along the coast of Cape Verde and used observations and knowledge from local fishermen. From this analysis, the researchers found that newborn sharks from at least five different species use a particular zone by the Sal Rey bay as a nursery. What makes this an extraordinary find is that all of these species are considered at imminent risk of extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The authors highlight that more action is needed to protect these shark populations and other species living in the Sal Rei bay. “The relevance of this region is clearly recognized by the local fishing community,” added Rosa. Since it is also used by marine mammals and turtles, “the protection of Sal Rei bay will be important not only for sharks but for the conservation of a whole diversity of highly charismatic marine organisms and for the sustainable use of the marine resources in the region,” concluded the researcher.
Rosa R, Nunes E, Pissarra V, et al (2023) Evidence for the first multi-species shark nursery area in Atlantic Africa (Boa Vista Island, Cabo Verde). Front. Mar. Sci., https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2023.1077748