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Biology and ecology of the African blackspot shark <i>Carcharhinus humani</i> on the east coast of South Africa


The African blackspot shark Carcharhinus humani (until now commonly known as Human’s whaler shark) is a small-sized requiem shark (family Carcharhinidae) found in tropical coastal waters of the western Indian Ocean as far south as Port St Johns on the east coast of South Africa. It was only recently recognised as being distinct from the blackspot shark C. sealei, which occurs elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific. This study utilised four datasets to investigate the movements, temporal and geographic distributions, life history and population status of this species in South African waters. The recapture of eight individuals of 294 that were tagged by shore anglers revealed an average distance moved of 33 km (range 1–192 km). Competitive shore anglers caught an average of 39 C. humani per annum along the entire KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) coast, with no marked trend in catch rate over time. Catches in the KZN bather protection programme were extremely low but included 30 pregnant females which displayed a highly seasonal pattern of embryo development. Sightings of C. humani on stereo baited remote underwater video systems (stereo-BRUVS) in the iSimangaliso Marine Protected Area were dominated by females (7.7:1) and were mostly in deeper water of 26–35 m. In all datasets most of the individuals were mature and were present year-round, but with a clear peak in summer and autumn, especially in the catches taken by shore anglers. Competitive shore-angling catch data were used to conduct a risk assessment for the South African population, and, based on values of probability of encounter, the sampled population satisfies the IUCN Red List criteria for Least Concern.