At the northern extent of the hugely productive waters of the Benguela Ecosystem, Angola’s rich waters support a huge artisanal fishing fleet. Ana is unlocking information about sharks and rays in the region, building the baseline for managing and protecting these species in West African waters.
If I had to define myself in a word, I would probably choose thalassophile, a lover of the sea.
Born and raised in a seaside town in Portugal, I was lucky to be in touch with the sea and become fascinated by the marine ecosystem from a very early age. By the time I was a young adult, it came as no surprise that I would pursue a degree in marine sciences and conservation. To understand the sea and its organisms has always been a dream and during my studies I was able to conduct research and work in very different...
Increase knowledge on sharks and rays along the coast of Angola, providing baseline information on species diversity and understand threats. This data will be key for adequate monitoring of threatened populations and development of effective management and conservation plans for Angolan and West African territorial waters.
Sharks are mostly characterized by conservative life-history parameters and biological attributes. These traits make them extremely vulnerable to overfishing because once populations are overexploited, species have a very low capacity for recovery. The worldwide increasing trend in fishing effort, the low degree of catch selectivity, and the overcapacity in terms of fishing fleet have a direct impact on coastal shark communities, decreasing their size and abundance. In West Africa, there is evidence of serious threat to sharks due to high demand for shark fins and increasing fishing effort. While some studies have been undertaken in north western Africa, data from Angola remains limited. Angola qualifies as an important West African area to assess the impact of artisanal and semi industrial fisheries on shark and rays abundance and diversity due to the high ecosystem productivity, the intense coastal and offshore fishing effort and limited information regarding species composition, abundance, and distribution.
According to a recent report by IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, more than a quarter of Chondrichthyan fishes are threatened with extinction. Regarding coastal fishing activities, there is a direct impact on elasmobranch communities, since many of them live in a coastal habitat, and there is an increasing trend on fishing effort, a low degree of selectivity, and overcapacity in terms of the fishing fleet. In a global context, in which many commercial fishing stocks are exhausted, sharks represent a meat resource that is also consumed in many countries. At beginning of the 1970s, as a response to high demand for shark fins in Asian countries, a Gambian export market, mainly in the form of artisanal fishing began, followed by the rest of the SRFC zone (Cabo Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone). Concerned with the shark stock status and its impact on the ecosystems, SRFC member states adopted, in 2001, a strategy for shark conservation and sustainable management in the sub-region with the Sub-Regional Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (SRPOA-Sharks). According to this management plan, and highlighted by the IUCN Red List for West African sharks, there was a decrease of shark populations on the West African coast, over the past thirty years, supported by shark landings decrease, whereas the fishing effort was strongly increased, as well as a decrease in the average size of certain species. In West Africa, there is evidence of serious declines in shark and ray populations. Studies have shown that the Great Hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran) and Lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) are Critically Endangered, and the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), which used to be frequent in the waters in the sub-region, is now rarely caught.
To find out which shark species occur in Puerto Rican waters, Glorimar is using genetics and getting samples from fish markets. She also relies on the assistance of local fishers. Filling this fundamental knowledge gap will help to assess local consumption of sharks and build up the community’s understanding of how sharks function in the marine ecosystem.
Shark fishing is becoming increasingly important in St Vincent, but little is known about the shark populations there. Catherine is figuring out which sharks live there and how they are utilised by local communities. She’s working with fishermen to achieve sustainable management of these fisheries.
With more than 200 species of sharks and rays around the Philippines and little known about the conservation status of most of them, it’s no wonder that some species have been ignored. AA is trying to close the information gaps for bottlenose wedgefish and other rhinid species to help inform better management for these species.