Project Leader

Carolina Vargas-Caro

Carolina Vargas-Caro

Who I am

I was born in Valdivia, one of the most charming (and rainy) towns in southern Chile, only 20 minutes from the ocean. I used to spend most sunny days of my childhood at the beach and I was fortunate to be able to observe artisanal fishermen and women and learn from them. One of the best parts of my weekend was the day trip to fish markets, where I got hands-on experience of the local biodiversity and went home with fish and shellfish for dinner. And that is where my passion for marine life started. As I grew up, I became more and more interested in understanding fish behaviour and went on to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in marine biology. For my thesis I studied the ecological impacts of bottom longline fisheries on shark and skate communities in southern Chile. Later I was awarded a scholarship to pursue my doctoral degree in marine ecology in Australia at the University of Queensland. During my time overseas, I researched the population structure of commercially harvested skates using DNA. Today I am back in Chile as a researcher at CHALLWA Laboratory at the Universidad de Antofagasta, where I will continue to do all that I can for the conservation of sharks and skates.

Where I work

As a researcher, I am based at CHALLWA Laboratory in Antofagasta, a beautiful port on the coast of the Atacama Desert, and for this project I visit fish landing sites and fishing communities in the region. Workshops targeting only fishers will be held, as well as informative workshops for the community and schools. Printed material will be produced and distributed among the target audience to raise awareness of the consequences of not having fishery management measures for these sharks and what will happen to the marine ecosystem.

What I do

I have studied with the purpose of understanding how fishing has changed the marine ecosystem and how good communication with fishers is crucial to improve our knowledge of the ocean’s species when information about even their basic biology is lacking. Fishers and researchers can work together to provide baselines for better conservation and management plans. The coastal waters of northern Chile are a biodiversity hotspot for houndsharks. Abundant in the past, these species were targets of the artisanal fisheries of coastal communities in the area. Nowadays, they are all considered Critically Endangered by the IUCN, with a high probability of extinction over the next two generations. This risk assessment raises the need for rapid changes in fisheries management and conservation strategies, but very little is known the houndsharks’ basic biology, making evidence-based management impossible. It is known that involving fishers in research can contribute to better fisheries management, as they can help to improve the quantity and quality of data. This is why this project is so important: it seeks to establish a link between fishers and scientists to promote sustainable fishery practices and to reduce the mortality of Critically Endangered houndsharks in northern Chile.

My project

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