Distribution and movement of scalloped hammerhead Sphryna lewini and smooth hammerhead Sphyrna zygaena sharks along the east coast of southern Africa

  • KM Diemer
  • BQ Mann
  • NE Hussey


Knowledge of population distribution and movement is crucial for the conservation and management of shark species occurring in coastal waters. From 1984 to 2009, 641 scalloped hammerheads Sphyrna lewini, 1 342 smooth hammerheads Sphyrna zygaena and 1 352 unspecified hammerheads Sphyrna spp. were tagged and released along the east coast of South Africa, with recapture rates of 1.9%, 1.5%, and 0.7% respectively. Maximum and average distance moved was 629 km and 147.8 km (95% CI = 33.0–262.7 km) for S. lewini and 384 km and 141.8 km (95% CI = 99.1–184.5 km) for S. Zygaena respectively. The majority of sharks (68% S. lewini, 74.1% S. zygaena and 33.5% Spyrna spp.) were tagged in the Transkei region, with the largest number tagged in Port St Johns. Across regions, most tagged sharks were >50–100 cm precaudal length (PCL), except in Transkei where more sharks >100–150 cm PCL were tagged. In the Western Cape, Southern Cape and Eastern Cape, few sharks were tagged during the autumn/winter months, whereas in KwaZulu-Natal and Transkei sharks were tagged throughout the year. Large-scale directional movements observed may have been migrations in response to seasonal sea surface temperature changes. We identify coastal locations in Transkei that are of importance to juvenile and subadult hammerhead populations year-round. 

Keywords: hammerhead sharks, migration, seasonality, tag recapture

African Journal of Marine Science 2011, 33(2): 229–238

Author Biographies

KM Diemer
Great Lakes Institute of Environmental Research, University of Windsor, ON, N9B 3P4, Canada
BQ Mann
Oceanographic Research Institute, PO Box 10712, Marine Parade, Durban 4056, South Africa
NE Hussey
Great Lakes Institute of Environmental Research, University of Windsor, ON, N9B 3P4, Canada

Journal Identifiers

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