My earliest and happiest childhood memories are of being on the beach in Greece, where I grew up. I remember being fascinated by all things marine and very quickly became obsessed with sharks. It must have been a combination of watching the Jaws film series and often seeing sharks sold in supermarkets. But all I knew was that I wanted to learn everything about them and bought every book I could find. More than 30 years later, I am probably even more in awe of them and realise how much more we need to learn about them.
I started my path...
The goal of this project is to produce the first Arabian Sea and its adjacent waters regional Red List assessment of 160 chondrichthyans.
There is no regional assessment of chondrichthyans from the Arabian Sea and its adjacent waters on the IUCN Red ListTM. Previously, the only assessment workshops conducted in the Indian Ocean included Australia and Oceania to feed into global status assessments. Of the 160 species now known to occur in the Arabian Sea and its adjacent waters, six are known to be Critically Endangered, six are Endangered, 52 are considered Data Deficient, 33 are Near Threatened, 38 Vulnerable, with only 13 considered Least Concern and 12 species that have not been evaluated. Most of these global assessments were conducted over a decade ago and are nearly out of date. Hence, it is important to revisit their status to identify any species collapses and recoveries. Furthermore, several species found in the region are endemic species and many other have only recently been described. Finally, several species of sharks and rays are also now considered species complexes and in need of an urgent assessment.
A recent overview of the status of chondrichthyans (sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras) estimated that one in four species is threatened with extinction according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List Threatened SpeciesTM. The Arabian Sea and its adjacent waters are home to over 160 chondrichthyan species and yet to date, no regional assessment has been undertaken to determine their status in the region. A better understanding of species-status and a baseline to determine a change-in-status is needed to develop regional research and management priorities, and to support the implementation of effective conservation strategies for those species that are most threatened. The IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM provides a framework for synthesizing disparate sources of information to develop categorisations of relative extinction risk based on species’ life history, ecology, distribution, major threats, conservation status, and actions in place. The Red List is a vital source of information underpinning regional conservation initiatives such as the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans, the United Arab Emirates National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (UAE NPOA), and the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2020.
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.