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Apex Predators Program
NOAA/NMFS/NEFSC
28 Tarzwell Drive
Narragansett RI 02882-1152 USA

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NEFSC Apex Predators Program

COASTSPAN

The Cooperative Atlantic States Shark Pupping and Nursery (COASTSPAN) survey is an ongoing investigation of known and putative shark nursery grounds along the east coast of the United States. The primary objectives of the COASTSPAN survey are:

  • First, to determine the location of shark nursery grounds along the U.S. East Coast and describe their species composition and habitat preferences using presence/absence data.
  • Second, to determine the relative abundance, distribution and migration of sharks utilizing these nursery grounds through longline and gillnet sampling and mark-recapture data.
Tagging Sandbar Shark
Tagging a young of the year sandbar shark during the NEFSC COASTSPAN Survey

Currently our COASTSPAN participants are the University of North Florida, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MADMF). The NEFSC staff conducts the survey in Narragansett and Delaware Bays. MADMF and NEFSC staff also conduct a survey in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) using COASTSPAN gear and methods. The COASTSPAN surveys in Delaware Bay, South Carolina, and Georgia have moved into the second phase, and these data produce standardized indices of abundance used in current shark stock assessments (McCandless 2005, McCandless et al. 2007c, McCandless 2010, McCandless and Belcher 2010, McCandless and Frazier 2010).

During the first few years of the COASTSPAN project, the NEFSC, in cooperation with Albion College, conducted exploratory surveys to determine the use of the Dry Tortugas as mating and nursery habitat by the nurse shark. This work resulted in designation of the first NMFS Habitat Area of Particular Concern (HAPC) and seasonal closures of the area by the National Park Service (Carrier and Pratt 1998, NMFS 1999). COASTSPAN work has also led to the designation of Delaware Bay as a HAPC for juvenile sandbar sharks (NMFS 1999, McCandless et al. 2007b) and the identification of critical shark nursery habitat for blacktip and lemon sharks in Fish Bay, USVI (DeAngelis et al. 2008).

COASTSPAN data have been used extensively in identifying Essential Fish Habitat for coastal shark species managed in the U.S. Atlantic. The NMFS Apex Predators Program organized a nursery report funded by the NMFS Highly Migratory Species Office to summarize COASTSPAN data, as well as data from other ongoing nursery studies for use by management. Preparation of this report culminated into an American Fisheries Society (AFS) symposium and a peer reviewed AFS symposium proceedings volume (McCandless et al. 2007a).

Literature Cited:

Carrier, J.C. and H.L. Pratt, Jr. 1998. Habitat management and closure of a nurse shark breeding and nursery ground. Fisheries Research 39:209-213.

DeAngelis, B.M., C.T. McCandless, N.E. Kohler, C.W. Recksiek, and G.B. Skomal. 2008. First characterization of shark nursery habitat in the United States Virgin Islands: evidence of habitat partitioning by two shark species. Marine Ecology Progress Series 358:257-271.

McCandless, C.T. 2005. Relative abundance trends for juvenile sandbar sharks in Delaware Bay. Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review 11, Data Workshop Document 30.

McCandless, C.T. 2010. Standardized catch rates for juvenile sandbar sharks caught during NMFS COASTSPAN longline surveys in Delaware Bay. Southeast Data Assessment and Review 21, Data Workshop Document 27.

McCandless, C.T., and C.N. Belcher. 2010. Standardized catch rates for sandbar and blacknose sharks caught during the Georgia COASTSPAN and GADNR red drum longline surveys. Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review 21, Data Workshop Document 29.

McCandless, C.T., and B. Frazier. 2010. Standardized catch rates for sandbar and blacknose sharks caught during the South Carolina COASTSPAN and SCDNR red drum surveys. Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review 21, Data Workshop Document 30.

McCandless, CT, NE Kohler, HL Pratt, Jr., editors. 2007a. Shark Nursery Grounds of the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast Waters of the United States. American Fisheries Society, Symposium 50. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.

McCandless, CT, HL Pratt, Jr., NE Kohler, RR Merson, CW Recksiek. 2007b. Distribution, localized abundance, movements, and migrations of juvenile sandbar sharks tagged in Delaware Bay. Pages 45-62 in CT McCandless, NE Kohler, & HL Pratt, Jr., editors. Shark Nursery Grounds of the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast Waters of the United States. American Fisheries Society, Symposium 50. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.

McCandless, CT, GF Ulrich, C Hendrix, B Frazier. 2007c. Standardized catch rates of small coastal sharks from the South Carolina COASTSPAN and SCDNR red drum surveys. Southeast Data Assessment and Review 13, Data Workshop Document 30.

NMFS. 1999. Final Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tuna, Swordfish and Sharks. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, Highly Migratory Species Management Division, Silver Spring, MD.

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(File Modified Aug. 08 2017)