Project Leader

Evan Nazareth

Evan Nazareth

Who I am

As a kid I dreamed of pursuing a career in wildlife conservation until I volunteered on a Save Our Seas Foundation project, when I realised the importance and urgency of shark and ray conservation in India. Especially given that the country is a major contributor to the world’s shark and ray fisheries, it was worrying to see the diversity and sheer number these species at local fish markets, regardless of their life stage or threatened status.

Since then, I have pursued shark and ray research and use my findings to raise awareness of the plight of these ecologically crucial animals in our waters and help promote their conservation. This has been the premise of my work over the past few years, which has involved identifying important habitats for Critically Endangered giant guitarfish in the Andaman Islands. Through this I hope to highlight the importance of the islands to threatened species and the potential safe refuge it could provide to them if adequate protection measures are set in place.

Where I work

India is a major contributor to the world’s elasmobranch (shark and ray) fisheries, yet we know little about the status of elasmobranchs in our waters. The Andaman Islands, situated to the east of mainland India between the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, comprise 325 islands and support one of India’s major shark and ray fisheries. The islands are part of the Indo-Myanmar and Sundaland biodiversity hotspot, with more than 1,900 kilometres (1,180 miles) of coastline inhabited by settler communities from mainland India, neighbouring countries and indigenous tribes. This growing and diverse community of people is leading to an increase in human-induced pressure on the islands’ coastline and the shallow coastal waters that many species depend on.

What I do

My introduction to shark and ray research began in 2015 at one of India’s major shark and ray fish markets. Seeing the urgent need for such research, I went on to work on similar projects across India that provided important base-line data on these species through fisheries surveys. These studies highlighted the sheer diversity of sharks and rays in our waters, but for this to transition into effective conservation and protection of these species, we also need to understand their biological and ecological requirements.

So from there I went on to initiate the Giant Guitarfish Project in 2019, which utilised local ecological knowledge from the Andaman Islands to map out juvenile aggregation sites of giant guitarfish in the region. These critical habitats play an important role in the protection and development of the young guitarfish at this early stage of their life. By identifying these habitats and focusing conservation efforts on them, we can more effectively protect giant guitarfish, along with other species that utilise these coastal waters. With this list of aggregation sites, along with personal observations of other juvenile rays, I now plan to identify what makes these sites unique and use the characteristic habitat features to identify more such aggregation sites that may have gone unnoticed.

My project

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