Ebeena is uncovering new information about the abundance and diversity of gulper sharks. Her focus is on three landing sites where deep-sea fish are brought ashore, and where she collects tissue samples and documents bycatch from these fisheries. The project aims to clarify taxonomic confusion about gulper sharks, and will centre on Cochin in Kerala on India’s south-west coast, Thothoor in Tamil Nadu on India’s south-east coast and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by the ocean and the life under it. I was born and raised in the town of Kochi – popularly known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea – on India’s south-western coast in the state of Kerala. Growing up in a seaside town, I spent most of my childhood exploring the coastline. Crabs were my best friends and playing around them was my ultimate happiness. In those young days, I was very frightened of sharks and scary movies and stories about them were the stuff of nightmares for me. That...
To understand the diversity, abundance and distribution of gulper sharks in India and to formulate suitable conservation strategies.
India’s gulper shark population is declining drastically as a result of high fishing pressure driven by the demand for squalene from the sharks’ livers, which is used in the manufacture of pharmaceutical products. So great is the decline that it may lead to the local extinction of these species. This project aims to provide information about the diversity, abundance and distribution of gulper sharks in India, which can be used to formulate conservation strategies.
A number of deep-sea shark species, such as Ehinorhinus brucus, Centrophorus squamosus, C. atromarginatus, C. granulosus, C. moluccensis, Squalus mitsukurii, S. hemipinnis, Etmopterus pusillus and Zameus squamulosus, are targeted by fisheries in India. Centrophorus spp. (gulper sharks) are the main target and are commercially exploited for the high squalene content of their livers. The demand for squalene on the international market is reflected in the shift of the elasmobranch fishery in India from coastal sharks and rays in the 1980s to deep-sea sharks like Centrophorus spp., Echinorhinus brucus and Squalus spp. in more recent times. In addition, large numbers of juveniles are taken as by-catch in deep-sea shrimp trawl nets. The high fishing pressure on these species over the past few years has led to a decline in the catch rate of gulper sharks in Indian waters. Moreover, low fecundity, late maturing and a long lifespan compound the population decline, preventing a quick recovery. All these factors raise the alarm for gulper sharks in India and demand that immediate attention be given to their predicament. My work focuses primarily on systematically collecting information about the data-deficient gulper sharks that can be used to formulate conservation policies and mitigation measures.
The objectives of this project are
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.
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