Project Leader

Trisha Gupta

Trisha Gupta

Who I am

Although I grew up in an Indian city that lies far from the coast, I’ve loved the ocean and its vast mysteries from a very young age. I always looked for any excuse to be by the sea and exploring its secrets. Combining this with an inclination for science and a passion for nature and wildlife, I decided to pursue a career in marine biology.

Soon after completing my Master’s, I did an internship on fisheries bycatch on India’s west coast. There I saw my first shark – a small spadenose shark caught by local fishers – and became fascinated by elasmobranchs because of their unique ecology, threatened status and socio-economic importance. At the same time, I was exposed to the real world of conservation and realised that it’s not just about saving marine organisms, but also about the lives of coastal communities interacting with the ocean. My interests then expanded to understanding some of these multidimensional problems and their solutions. While it can be challenging work, I do get to spend a lot of time in some beautiful parts of India’s coastline!

Where I work

I work in Goa, on the central–west coast of India. Although Goa is one of the smallest coastal states of India, its coastline is characterised by a number of rivers and estuaries, mangrove forests and patches of coral reef, as well as diverse marine life. The state hosts a diversity of fisheries, ranging from mechanised vessels to a large number of small-scale gill-net and artisanal fisheries. Aside from its fisheries, Goa is a major tourist destination with coastal tourism forming a large part of the state’s economy. Tourism can pose an additional threat to marine species like guitarfish, but can also represent opportunities in terms of alternative livelihoods and incentives for conservation.

What I do

My work will involve a combination of different methods to understand the habitat use and post-capture survival rate of guitarfish. My collaborators and I will first conduct interviews with fishers at our study sites to draw on local knowledge. At the same time, we will survey small-scale fisheries for guitarfish bycatch. These fishing vessels generally operate during the early mornings and evenings and we will inspect their catches at these times to identify and measure any captured guitarfish. If any guitarfish are alive, we will look into their stress and post-capture survival.

For the second half of our field work, we will be studying guitarfish habitats using in situ methods. Underwater cameras, with bait to attract guitarfish, will be deployed at selected sites to study these species. We will also conduct line transects, which involves walking a specific distance along the tide line to survey guitarfish found in the shallow water.

Throughout our field work, we hope to be working closely and engaging with fishing communities. At the end of our project we will share our findings with local stakeholders.

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