Predicting changes in distribution of a large coastal shark in the face of the strengthening East Australian Current

Yuri Niella*, Amy F. Smoothey, Victor Peddemors, Robert Harcourt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


In the face of accelerating climate change, conservation strategies will need to consider how marine animals deal with forecast environmental change as well as ongoing threats. We used 10 yr (2009-2018) of data from commercial fisheries and a bather protection program along the coast of New South Wales (NSW), southeastern Australia, to investigate (1) spatial and temporal patterns of occurrence in bull sharks and (2) environmental factors affecting bull shark occurrence along the coast of NSW. Predicted future distribution for this species was modelled for the forecast strengthening East Australian Current. Bull sharks were mostly harvested in small to larger estuaries, with average depth and rainfall responsible for contrasting patterns for each of the fisheries. There was an increase in the occurrence of bull sharks over the last decade, particularly among coastal setline fisheries, associated with seasonal availability of thermal gradients >22°C and both westward and southward coastal currents stronger than 0.15 and 0.60 m s-1, respectively, during the austral summer. Our model predicts a 3 mo increase in the availability of favourable water temperatures along the entire coast of NSW for bull sharks by 2030. This coastline provides a uniquely favourable topography for range expansion in the face of a southerly shift of warmer waters, and habitat is unlikely to be a limiting factor for bull sharks in the future. Such a southerly shift in distribution has implications for the management of bull sharks both in commercial fisheries and for mitigation of shark-human interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-177
Number of pages15
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2020


  • Climate change
  • East Australian Current
  • Bull shark
  • Population distribution
  • Shark-human interactions
  • East australian current

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