Who I am
I’m a biologist working with sharks, rays, skates and chimaeras, otherwise known as cartilaginous fishes. I grew up reading books about marine wildlife, swimming in the sea and spending hours in intertidal pools watching invertebrates and small fishes. The next logical step for me was to study to be a biologist and during my studies I found myself captivated by cartilaginous fishes. For economic and personal reasons, I couldn’t work directly with these species, but one day I took all the money I had saved for years to study a PhD in marine ecology – the best decision I ever made. I finally had the opportunity to work on many projects relating to cartilaginous fishes in the areas of biology, ecology, fisheries, historical catch reconstructions and conservation.
Cartilaginous fishes are remarkable organisms, with a high species diversity and interesting biological characteristics and adaptations. The challenges of achieving the sustainable management and conservation of these species motivate me every day to continue working in the field and finding out more about them. I love what I do and have never considered it a job; it is my passion and my way of life.
Where I work
I’m based in Ensenada on the Baja California peninsula in the north-western Mexican Pacific, one of the most productive ecosystems on earth and the most important fishery region in Mexico for sharks and rays. Seventy kilometres (43 miles) north of Ensenada is Popotla, an artisanal fishing camp from which cartilaginous fishes are caught. In this region, cold-temperate, nutrient-rich waters converge with warm waters from the south, making a complex biotic transition zone with a high diversity of marine species. Dry and warm during summer, the climate becomes humid and temperate in winter.
The cartilaginous fishes are of socio-economic and cultural importance in Mexico – and the world –but one of the main challenges they face is insufficient fishery management and conservation measures, which is the result of a poor reporting and monitoring system and a lack of data for many species.
What I do
Our project aims to generate basic biological and fishery information for cartilaginous fishes. This information will be fundamental for well-planned fishery management and conservation of these species. We will focus on spiny sharks and at least three species of chimaeras, which are poorly known and studied species that have often been reported at the Popotla fishing camp. To achieve the goals of this project we will regularly visit the landing site at Popotla, describe the cartilaginous fishes caught and obtain biological and fishery data about them. Our good relationship and communication with the fishermen will help us in not only collecting data, but also in getting them involved in projects like ours. When the project is complete, we will summarise the findings and make the results known to general audiences to raise awareness about little-known cartilaginous fishes and the importance of efforts to maintain healthy populations of these species.