Sarah and her team are surveying the major fish markets along Libya’s coast, a stretch that she suspects represents one of the last hotspots for angel sharks in the Mediterranean. Her education campaign will harness the reach of social media, regional radio and magazine articles and she will meet with fishers to make them aware of angel sharks and their status in Libyan waters.
When I first saw photos on social media of people fishing for angel sharks, I decided to take steps to protect this threatened creature in Libya. I didn’t know what these steps might be, but I decided to use the tool that I have – social media – to raise awareness about angel sharks and the threats they face. One thing led to another and I found myself being called ‘the girl who cares about angel sharks in Libya’.
It felt really good when a fisherman contacted me to tell me that he had found an angel shark alive and...
This project aims to promote reporting of angel shark catch and identification in Libya, and highlight the importance of Libya as a hot-spot for angel sharks in the Mediterranean sea.
This will be the first project focused on better understanding of three Critically Endangered angel shark species completed on the coastline of North Africa (Libya). During the recent Mediterranean Angel Shark: Regional Action Plan Workshop, collecting data from this region was assessed as a top priority, as fisheries data are severely lacking for elasmobranchs and particularly for angel sharks. Equipped with a highly qualified team on the ground, a well-established network and with support from the iSea & Angel Shark Project partners (ULPGC, ZFMK, ZSL ), this project provides a unique opportunity to make a significant difference on the knowledge and future protection of angel sharks in the Mediterranean.
Worldwide, elasmobranch populations have been significantly affected by overfishing and habitat destruction and currently, one quarter of all species are threatened with extinction. Elasmobranches are highly susceptible to fisheries exploitation.
The angel shark family was identified as one of the most threatened sharks and ray taxa after a global review of extinction risk by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group. Once common in the Mediterranean Sea, angel sharks have almost completely disappeared from their former range. The last known stronghold for one angel shark species (S. squatina) in the Atlantic is in the Canary Islands. However, over recent years there has been an increase in reported sightings and fishermen records of all three angel shark species off the Mediterranean coast. The Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Angel Shark Conservation Strategy sets out a framework for improved protection and the Mediterranean Angel Shark: Regional Action Plan (in prep) is designed to focus efforts in this region. Focused sub-regional action plans will also be developed in different regions, but improved knowledge on the presence of angel sharks is essential for the efficacy of these plans.
Through an established social media network and an initial project focusing on fisher market surveys, it has become evident that Libya could a potential hotspot for all three CR angel sharks, highlighting the need to focus work in the region. Currently fishers have no possibility to systematically record captures or sightings of angel sharks, nor is there any awareness of their conservation status. In addition, possible threats to the species, beyond fishing, are unknown. Improved understanding of the presence and distribution of angel sharks along the Libyan coastline is vital.
Anna is collecting genetic information from white shark fin clips to assess this species’ population size in South Africa. Using close-kin mark-recapture analysis instead of traditional methods, she hopes to provide an accurate account of South Africa’s white shark population size. She also aims to develop a monitoring protocol that can use genetic samples collected during shark net and drumline patrols by the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board. This information is needed in South Africa, where the conservation of a protected species is balanced against concerns about bather safety, and where sharks are caught in bather protection gear.
Faqih is filling the gaps in the scant knowledge of giant guitarfish in Java’s Karimunjawa National Park marine protected area (MPA). Karimunjawa is located near Northern Java’s main fishing grounds, but evidence of giant guitarfish caught in some of the use-zones of the MPA hints that the park may be a sanctuary for the species. Managing giant guitarfish in Karimunjawa requires species-specific information.
Faqih’s project is a socio-ecological one to help inform management and draws on new information about relative abundance and distribution, historical occurrence and fishing pressures to paint a contemporary picture of the species in the park.
Cindy wants to know if bonnethead sharks in the Eastern Pacific constitute a third, cryptic species. The Bonnethead complex need clarification in all its distribution range, and Panama is a key country to solve this question since we have the Caribbean sea and the Pacific Ocean. By collecting fin clip samples to compare species at the genetic level and collecting specimens to compare how they look (morphology), Cindy hopes to resolve the taxonomy of Sphyrna tiburo vespertina – that is, whether it’s a cryptic third species for bonnetheads in the region. Her information can help update the IUCN Red List for bonnetheads and improve fisheries policies in Latin America where bonnethead sharks are commonly caught.