Scientific shark study resumes in New Caledonia

New Caledonia’s Southern Province will tag 200 sharks with transmitting devices Photo: IRD

A scientific study on shark presence and behaviour is to resume shortly in New Caledonia’s Southern Province, where two incidents in February last year prompted an indiscriminate culling campaign

A similar campaign initiated five years ago also focused on tiger sharks and bulldog sharks, but it was aborted. 

The new project will be carried out in association with French Research Institute IRD. 

It will be deployed on seven sites in New Caledonia’s Southern province, including beaches in Nouméa. 

French research institute IRD representative for New Caledonia France Bailly, Southern Province’s deputy Vice-President Gil Brial and French Commissioner Grégory Lecru sign an agreement for shark survey 29 April 2024 

French research institute IRD representative for New Caledonia France Bailly, Southern Province’s deputy Vice-President Gil Brial and French Commissioner Grégory Lecru sign an agreement for a shark survey, on 29 April. Photo: rrb 

The study will involve tagging two hundred specimens of tiger and bulldog sharks so their movements and behaviours can be monitored thanks to transmitters implanted in their stomachs. 

Another part of the study will rely on “environmental DNA”, which involves seawater sample collection to detect traces of shark cells, IRD researcher Laurent Vigliola told a press conference. 

“Using all these technologies, we’ll try to establish a sort of mapping of places where (sharks) are more present on a seasonal basis”, he said. 

The study is scheduled to be carried out over a period of four years, for an estimated cost of about US$2-million, co-funded by France for 75 percent. 

In January and February 2023, three shark attacks took place on Nouméa beaches and one Australian tourist died. 

This prompted a systematic culling campaign in response, when an estimated 120 bulldog and tiger sharks were killed in Nouméa bay. 

The culling was stopped by a series of court rulings nullifying the decision made by the Nouméa municipality. 

The court justified its decision by pointing out there was not enough scientific knowledge to carry out this systematic culling, which also caused significant collateral damage to other non-shark species.

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