Spatial and seasonal distribution patterns of the ragged-tooth shark Carcharias taurus along the coast of South Africa

  • ML Dicken Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, Rhodes University, PO Box 94, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa; Current address: Department of Development Studies, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth 6031, South Africa
  • MJ Smale Port Elizabeth Museum, PO Box 13147, Humewood 6013, South Africa
  • AJ Booth Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, Rhodes University, PO Box 94, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa


Catches from competitive shore-anglers, inshore boatbased anglers and sightings by spearfishers and divers were used to infer the spatial and seasonal movement patterns of young-of-the-year (<1.2m TL), juvenile (1.2–1.8m TL), sub-adult (1.8–2.4m TL) and adult (>2.4m TL) ragged-tooth sharks Carcharias taurus along the coast of South Africa. Adult sharks inhabited the entire coast between Maputaland in the east and St Helena Bay on the West Coast. The geographical range of sharks at earlier life-history stages decreased with size. The vast majority (93.8%) of young-of-the-year sharks recorded from competitive shore-angling club records were between East London and St Francis Bay on the East Coast, suggesting this region to be the primary nursery area for C. taurus. Estuarine systems, although utilised by young-of-the-year and juvenile C. taurus, do not form an important component of their nursery area in South Africa. Catches of pregnant and post partum females taken during the same time of year and in different areas indicated a biennial reproductive cycle. C. taurus appears to display a high degree of affinity for particular reefs. The reason some reefs are chosen over others, despite having similar physical characteristics, remains unclear. A significant increase in the number of C. taurus caught in competitions held by the Border Rock and Surf Angling Association between 1984 and 2004 suggests an increase in the abundance of C. taurus.

Keywords: boat-anglers, C. taurus, competitive shore-angling, distribution patterns, estuaries, habitat, South Africa, spearfishers

African Journal of Marine Science 2006, 28(3): 603–616

Journal Identifiers

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