Rab studies mantas and mobulas along Pakistan’s poorly researched coastline where these rays – along with countless other marine animals – are unintentionally killed by gill nets. He hopes that his research will convince the government to ban this destructive fishing method.
The project aims to conduct a study on the occurrence, distribution, abundance, mortality rate and biology of mobulids found in Pakistani waters. It also endeavors to develop a strategy for protection of these species and to create awareness among the public through media.
Mobulids play an important – but not yet well understood – role in the epipelagic ecosystem. They also have some of the lowest reproductive rates among elasmobranchs, making them very vulnerable to overfishing.
Mobulids are a group of marine animals that are generally ignored because of their limited commercial importance. However, these animals play an important role in the epipelagic ecosystem, which needs to be properly studied. It is also known that the mobulids have some of the lowest reproductive rates among elasmobranchs, making them more susceptible to overfishing at a faster rate than other reproductively prolific species.
The project is unique because it will help in generating much needed information about the seasonal abundance, distribution, stock assessment, feeding habit and reproduction of mobulids for the first time in the northern Arabian Sea. Considering their high by-catch mortality and limited reproductive capacity, there is a dire need to take necessary measures for the protection of mobulids. The proposed project intends to collect this information to develop a programme for conservation of mobulids in Pakistan. WWF-Pakistan has been involved in conservation and protection of marine animals for quite some time. In the recent past, it has concentrated its efforts on protection of marine animals brutally affected by uncontrolled fishing operations in Pakistan. Devastation caused by high levels of by-catch has affected sharks, cetaceans, turtles and mobulid species. Therefore, considering the lack of information about mobulids and their high mortality in gillnet fishing, it is vital to initiate a study on their status, distribution, abundance, stock assessment, reproduction and other aspects. Awareness about the significance and protection of mobulids would also be created among fishing communities and relevant stakeholders.
In Sabah, Malaysia access to the ocean is easy for researchers – and fishers. The area is also home to at least 95 species of sharks and rays. Mabel will visit local fish markets to discover important information about these animals and how they are being exploited.