Project

Critical habitat for sharks

Species
  • Rays & Skates
  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2013, 2015
Status
  • Archived
Project type
  • Research
Description

The rich mangrove systems of the tropical eastern Pacific provide a safe haven for baby sea creatures, including sharks and rays. Juliana and Alex are working with local fishing communities to find a way of sustaining both people and biodiversity.

Critical habitat for sharks

Juliana López-Angarita

Project leader
About the project leader

Brought together by the same powerful attraction to the ocean, we combine two different worlds, two different ways of interacting with wildlife and exploring the wildest corners of the planet. Alex, born and raised in Britain, has spent most of his life discovering the world by living in places such as India, Russia, Egypt, Mozambique and Belize. Juliana hails from the heart of Colombia, where her childhood explorations barely scratched the surface of this mega-diverse country.
Alex found the magic of the ocean in Fiji at the age of 18, immersed in coral reef colours and forms. Juliana fell in...

Critical habitat for sharks

Alex Tilley

Project leader
About the project leader

Brought together by the same powerful attraction to the ocean, we combine two different worlds, two different ways of interacting with wildlife and exploring the wildest corners of the planet. Alex, born and raised in Britain, has spent most of his life discovering the world by living in places such as India, Russia, Egypt, Mozambique and Belize. Juliana hails from the heart of Colombia, where her childhood explorations barely scratched the surface of this mega-diverse country.
Alex found the magic of the ocean in Fiji at the age of 18, immersed in coral reef colours and forms. Juliana fell in...

PROJECT LOCATION : Tropical Eastern Pacific
All news about this project
By Juliana López-Angarita, Alex Tilley, 3rd November 2015
Searching for sawfishes in Panama
Words by Juan Camilo Cubillos & Melany Villate We travelled half the length of Panama to arrive at a hot and wet Chiriquí in the far west. As new researchers undertaking a Panama-wide survey for critical marine habitats, we found the plan to visit a…
By Juliana López-Angarita, Alex Tilley, 12th October 2015
Mangroves and polar bears
A photograph of an emaciated polar bear at the brink of starvation has been the social media sensation of the past few weeks, bringing large-scale climate issues to the forefront of the news. It is disappointing that strong images like this are required to stir…
By Juliana López-Angarita, Alex Tilley, 10th November 2014
Festival Cinemar: building a love of the ocean in the Andean Cordillera
Hey! What do you know about sharks? And by the way… do you like brownies? Test your shark knowledge and win a brownie. This was our hook for Colombians to come and learn about sharks at our stall during the Bogotá Museum of Science’s annual…
By Juliana López-Angarita, Alex Tilley, 10th July 2014
#raysneedlove2 – urgently!
Last month we attended the Sharks International 2014 conference in Durban, South Africa. This conference presents recent progress made every four years in the study of sharks and rays. Despite the usual shark bias (the clue is in the name!) the take home message from…
By Juliana López-Angarita, Alex Tilley, 14th February 2014
Two glimmers of hope for sharks in Costa Rica?
The Gulf of Nicoya, situated midway along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is home to more than 17,000 hectares of mangrove forest composed of 6 different species. These mangroves host incredible biodiversity and fisheries productivity of commercial species such as snook (robalo), corvina, catfish (bagre) and…
By Juliana López-Angarita, Alex Tilley, 14th January 2014
Evolving Ideas of Conservation
One of the first models of conservation was one of exclusion and exclusivity, where Kings of England set aside private hunting reserves to protect wild populations for sport, with harsh punishments for poachers. This is actually where the term wilderness comes from, when wild-deer-ness was…
By Juliana López-Angarita, Alex Tilley, 17th September 2013
Preliminary findings from Costa Rica & Ecuador
Out on the widest part of the river the air is hot and humid and the water is dark and dirty. Locals call this time of year agua sucia, as the strong showers of the rainy season muddy the waters, pushing sediment and nutrients from…
Project details

Assessment of elasmobranch critical habitat in the Tropical Eastern Pacific

Key objective

To identify coastal areas of key importance to sharks and mobulid rays in the tropical eastern Pacific and assess the adequacy of their current protection.

Why is this important

This study will generate crucial data on a vulnerable and little-known group of elasmobranchs in an extremely understudied system, highlighting important priorities for marine conservation and fisheries management.

Background

The tropical eastern Pacific harbours great biodiversity and impressive productivity of marine resources, yet the continental shelf of the tregion has received scant attention, since most scientific efforts and conservation funds are drawn to the emblematic island groups of Cocos, Malpelo and Galápagos. However, neglecting the coast is a risky situation since elasmobranchs rely on critical habitats, such as mangroves and estuaries, on the continental shelf as nursery grounds where juveniles can grow with lower predation risk or greater energetic intake. A great proportion of by-catch in the region is represented by sharks and rays caught on long-lines or trapped in nets of fishing vessels. Hence, identifying key habitat is a very useful conservation tool in these countries where the need to protect sharks is gradually increasing through their inclusion in national fisheries management plans.
The need for this project became apparent during a scouting trip to Ecuador and Colombia in 2012. Visiting many ports and communities, we were staggered by the productivity of this region and our capacity as humans to exploit it. We watched myriad fishes, sharks and rays being landed in even the smallest artisanal fisheries. Preliminary meetings with local managers and NGOs highlighted the lack of ecological knowledge of this region and its species, and the need for comprehensive scientific information on which to base sustainable management of marine resources.

Aims & objectives

The aim of this project is to assess the adequacy and extent to which current marine protected area coverage and management strategies protect critical habitat of elasmobranch species of the tropical eastern Pacific.
To achieve this we will:

  • Evaluate the use of coastal marine habitat in the tropical eastern Pacific (Ecuador, Colombia and Costa Rica) by hammerhead sharks and mobulids.
  • Compare the above information with current management strategies in each country, such as protected area delimitation, zoning schemes and fishing regulations, and identify priorities for effective protection of sharks and rays, and their critical habitats according to life stage.
  • Provide advice and recommendations to marine protected area managers.
  • Raise local community awareness of the ecological and economic importance of large elasmobranchs, and the need for their long-term management and protection in the tropical eastern Pacific in order to facilitate legislative changes on a community level.