Guy Harvey Magazine

WIN 2012

Guy Harvey Magazine is focused on fishing, boating, scuba diving, and marine conservation. Portfolios from the world's best fishing photographers, articles on gear, travel, tournaments, apparel, lifestyle, seafood recipes, sustainable fisheries.

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Page 71 of 83

GUY HARVEY RESEARCH INSTITUTE CAUTION: SAND TIGERS AHEAD BY DR. MAHMOOD SHIVJI & DARYL CARSON U.S. Fishery managers have taken a conservative approach to protecting sand tigers, but there is little information to know what measures are needed. Aside from the gaping maw of a great white, perhaps no set of shark dentures is as striking as those of a sand tiger. Yes, the serrated smile of a white shark is impressive, with its uniform rows of triangular teeth, but the sand tiger is equally so. Although, instead of being uniform and precise, its mouth bulges with a tangled mess of spikes jutting out in all directions. Even though it's a look that conveys a capacity to rip flesh, oddly, these sharks appear to mostly swallow their prey whole. And it's this gnarly appearance, along with an interestingly docile demeanor, that have made sand tigers something of a rock star among shark species. They're a favorite encounter among divers, especially around wrecks of the mid-Atlantic coast. And their tolerance for captivity has made them a staple attraction of marine aquariums around the world, where thousands of school children each year are mesmerized with the shark's snaggly-toothed appearance. But for all the sand tiger's popularity, there is still little information about their abundance in the oceans and what needs to be done to protect them in many parts of their range. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List lists this species as "Vulnerable" on a global scale, meaning that the best available information indicates is it facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. In some areas, this species is IUCN Red Listed as "Critically Endangered." The population status of the sand tiger in U.S. waters remains uncertain. Studies done to date have been fairly limited in scope. In U.S. waters, sand tigers inhabit the coastal Atlantic from Maine to Florida and also frequent the northern Gulf of Mexico. Although sometimes caught by recreational anglers, most of the known fishing pressure comes from commercial longline and gillnet operations where sand tigers are taken as bycatch. In terms of biology, sand tigers have characteristics similar to other sharks that can make population recovery a very slow process. It takes females a long nine to ten years to reach sexual maturity, although males are somewhat faster at six to seven years. After that, reproduction appears to be only every other year or even every three years. And, when sand tigers do reproduce, the result is a measly two offspring at a time, one in each uterus. It all adds up to what researchers call "very low rebound potential," from fishing-caused mortality. Source: Guy Harvey Research Institute, Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center

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