Amanda is doing DNA analyses to clarify the genetic structure of bottlenose wedgefish (also called whitespotted wedgefish), and her project aims to determine the local population structure and fishery threats of this species in Malaysia. She visits crowded landing sites to collect genetic samples and talk with local fishers to understand their perspective on catching bottlenose wedgefish. She uses fish landing site surveys and face-to-face interviews to understand which fishing gear is used, and assess catch profile information. Amanda hopes her work will inform conservation actions and provide gear-specific management actions to protect this Endangered species.
I grew up in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia and a city some distance from the ocean, yet ever since I was a kid I have been fascinated by marine life after watching wildlife documentaries. When I was 12 my passion for marine life burgeoned after my first visit to Underwater World Langkawi, an aquarium in Malaysia. For me, it was an eye-opener to see those amazing marine creatures. As my interest in the marine environment grew, I went on to pursue a BSc degree in aquatic resource science and management at the University of...
The aim of this project is to advance science-based management of the white-spotted wedgefish. Specifically, the project will clarify the genetic structure and population connectivity of this endangered species between different regions of Malaysian waters and will rank the threats posed by different types of fishing gear, especially as used by small-scale fisheries.
The white-spotted, or bottlenose, wedgefish is one of the top 10 ray species caught in Malaysia and prized for their fins and meat. It is often taken as by-catch and is also targeted by commercial fisheries. Determining the genetic structure and the degree of population connectivity of this species and the fishing gear(s) that pose the greatest threat to it will be important to inform fishery management actions.
The white-spotted wedgefish can be found throughout the Indo-West Pacific area, ranging from Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia to the Australian subtropics. As a member of the highly-threatened family of Rhinidae, it is very vulnerable to overfishing because its reproductive rate is relatively slow, its body size is large and it inhabits shallow coastal waters where, throughout its range, fisheries operate using multiple types of fishing gear. Little else is known about the fine-scale population genetics and connectivity of this highly exploited species in Malaysia, which is part of the Sundaland bioregion.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has recently reclassified all wedgefish species including the white-spotted, as Critically Endangered. This raises a huge concern, as the white-spotted wedgefish is not legally protected in Malaysia. The absence of species-specific landing data and other relevant studies aggravate the issue where the threats to this species are as yet unrecognised. Although commercial fishery operations, especially trawlers, are often seen as the culprits that overexploit local fish populations, the impact of small-scale artisanal fisheries operating in the nearshore waters inhabited by the white-spotted wedgefish is much less known. This project, therefore, aims to advance science-based advocacy for the protection of animals by addressing essential research gaps. Specifically, the project aims to clarify the population structure and degree of connectivity of the white-spotted wedgefish using molecular tools, and at the same time objectively evaluate fishery threats of both commercial and artisanal fisheries to this poorly studied species.
Tom has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tease apart the impacts of human visitation, climate change and fishing on Adélie, Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins. Using drone footage, camera data and faecal samples collected in 2020/21 and into 2022, he’s monitoring Antarctica in years with minimal human footprint due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Tom wants to know whether rising sea temperatures, increasing krill fishing or a growing tourism presence is driving declines of Antarctic Peninsula penguins. By comparing 10 years’ of monitoring data to these data, he hopes to use his findings to inform policy decisions to conserve the Antarctic Peninsula’s penguin colonies.
Demian’s team is developing tools that help border control officers identify illegal shark products. His project is sifting through ‘rhino ray’ DNA sequences looking for differences in code between the guitarfishes, giant guitarfishes and wedgefishes nicknamed for their pointy snouts (and Endangered status). Months of testing will help ensure only rhino ray DNA is targeted before the team flies to Hong Kong to help officials use a portable DNA tester. This project will add to the arsenal currently being used to identify illegal shark fins moving across borders, and help stop the trafficking of ‘rhino ray’ fins.
Aristide created a citizen science platform and mobile app for fishers across Cameroon’s 400 km coastline to record sightings of sharks, rays and marine life. These photos are uploaded to iNaturalist where they are identified and will serve to create Cameroon’s first elasmobranch atlas. Together with his team, Aristide ensures data are being uploaded, visits fish landing sites to assess bycatch and measure sharks, and scours the beaches to check for strandings and sea turtle nests. He collects tissue samples of threatened species in these visits that can give more insights into the diversity, population size and structure of vulnerable sharks.