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, where she collects tissue samples and documents bycatch from these fisheries. The project aims to clarify any taxonomic confusion about gulper sharks, and will centre on Cochin in Kerala on India’s southwest coast, Thothoor in Tamil Nadu on India’s southeast 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 of India and to formulate suitable conservation strategies
Gulper shark (Centrophorus spp.) population of India is declining drastically due to high fishing pressure in connection with the high demand for the squalene from the liver, especially for the manufacture of pharmaceutical products and may directs into local extinction of these species. This project aims to fill the gap of knowledge on the diversity, abundance and distribution of gulper sharks in India, which can be used for formulation of conservation strategies.
Deep sea shark fishery of India comprise of species like Ehinorhinus brucus, Centrophorus squamosus, C. atromarginatus, C. granulosus, C. moluccensis, Squalus mitsukurii, S.hemipinnis, Etmopterus pusillus, Zameus squamulosus etc. Centrophorus spp. (gulper sharks) was the predominant one and were commercially exploited for their high squalene in their livers. High demand for squalene in International market can be visible in the shifting of species composition of 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 addition, large numbers of juveniles are also caught in deep-sea shrimp trawl as bycatch. As a result of high fishing pressure over the last few years catch rate of these gulper sharks started declining in Indian waters. In addition, their biological traits like low fecundity, high longevity and late age at first maturity aids the rapid population depletion, also prevent quick recovery after such depletion. This alarms the need of immediate attention on gulper sharks of India. My work primarily focuses on the systematic data collection of data deficient gulper sharks, which can be used for the formulation of policies and mitigation measures.
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.
Ali is collaborating with researchers across North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean to develop support tools for guitarfish conservation. As an advocate, much of her work is completed behind a computer and locked in meetings, but her goal is to help bring awareness to the threatened status of guitarfish in the Mediterranean. The current Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust, Ali represents a large number of regional partners to engage with governments, develop new resources and coordinate guitarfish conservation activities.