Spatial and seasonal patterns in sighting rate and life-history composition of the white shark Carcharodon carcharias at Mossel Bay, South Africa

  • R Ryklief
  • PA Pistorius
  • R Johnson


White sharks Carcharodon carcharias aggregate at specific times of the year at localities along the South African coast. At Mossel Bay, on the southern Cape coast, four sites were sampled (Seal Island, Hartenbos, Kleinbrak and Grootbrak) to investigate spatial and seasonal patterns in relative abundance and life-history composition. These are known aggregation sites within the bay, each having particular physical and/or biological characteristics. Sightings-per-unit-effort data were collected from February to December 2008–2010. Sighting rates demonstrated significant seasonal and interannual variation at the four sites. The highest mean sighting rate was recorded at Seal Island and the lowest at Hartenbos, which might be a consequence of differences in prey availability. The greatest interannual variability was recorded at Kleinbrak, followed by Seal Island, with little variability at Grootbrak and Hartenbos. White sharks appeared to concentrate at Grootbrak and Kleinbrak in summer and autumn, at Seal Island in winter, and at Hartenbos and Seal Island in spring. All life-history stages were present year-round but their occurrence was influenced significantly by season (p < 0.05), although not site. Few adults (325–424 cm total length) were seen, with the highest frequency being in spring, whereas that of young-of-the-year (≤174 cm) was in autumn. Juveniles (175–324 cm) constituted 78% of the animals sighted, indicating that Mossel Bay is an important aggregation site for this life-history stage.

Keywords: adults, Agulhas system, habitat use, juveniles, relative abundance, young-of-the-year

African Journal of Marine Science 2014, 36(4): 449–453

Author Biographies

R Ryklief
Department of Zoology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa; Oceans Research, Mossel Bay, South Africa
PA Pistorius
Department of Zoology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
R Johnson
Oceans Research, Mossel Bay, South Africa

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1814-2338
print ISSN: 1814-232X