Leader: L. Vigliola
As top predators, sharks play a critical role in the regulation of marine ecosystems. However, they are one of the most vulnerable and threatened predator groups in the oceans due to heavy exploitation by legal or illegal fisheries, high level of bycatch and strong sensitivity to human activities. Despite encouraging results on the effects of marine protected areas (MPAs) on abundance of exploited resources, the efficiency of MPAs towards the protection of sharks is still under scrutiny. In this context, further studies are thus urgently required to adjust the design of MPAs (size, spacing, shape, dynamic vs static) to enhance the protection of top predators, such as sharks. The overall aim of the APEX project is therefore to collect essential knowledge on shark foraging ecology and ecological factors influencing shark habitat-use patterns, at a large scale, in order to implement appropriate conservation measures. To reach this objective the project will rely on an interdisciplinary approach combining oceanography, spatial ecology and modelling. The study will be carried out in remote sites of New Caledonia and will be divided into three subtasks aiming at: (1) quantifying habitat, prey availability and human effects on shark abundance and occurrence patterns using multi-dimensional niche models; (2) assessing behavioural and migration patterns of sharks across habitats, patches of resources and human densities using the most recent development in telemetry through electronic tags and animal-borne video; and (3) providing guidance for marine spatial planning in the light of results obtained from the previous steps of the project.