Elizabeth is visiting the ports and fish landing sites of twelve ports in Peru. She records and collects samples as the fishers unload their catches, searching for guitarfishes. Elizabeth is keen to work with the natural curiosity of the fishers who want to know more about her work and use these interactions to get more information and involve fishers in this research. This way, her project can provide an understanding of how and where guitarfishes are being caught along the Peruvian coast.
My first experience of marine species was when I was a child. I saw a sticker placed on my refrigerator that showed a dolphin with a cross and a message that said ‘Don’t eat muchame‘. It took me several years to learn what ‘muchame‘ meant, which refers to a way of preparing dolphin meat in Peru. It was wonderful how this little message made me wonder about other marine species that were not as charismatic as dolphins. My curiosity and the desire to learn more about marine species every day led me to study a career in science and fisheries...
The aim of this project is to record information about the fishery and trade of guitarfish in Peru and to find out which species are involved so that they can be effectively managed.
The National Plan for the Conservation and Management of Elasmobranchs in Peru is in the process of being reviewed and implemented. However, we know little about guitarfish and although landings of guitarfish species remain low, these elasmobranchs play an important role in the ecosystem. Moreover, it has not been confirmed how many species are involved and this information is necessary for management measures. Our research aims to fill this gap and contribute to the conservation of the guitarfish species involved.
Peru has registered five species of guitarfish. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, four of them are listed as Data Deficient and one as Near Threatened. Guitarfish are caught mainly during the southern summer by fishers working along the Peruvian coast. These species have been eaten from ancient times to the present day, and guitarfish is one of the most requested traditional dishes in northern Peru. However, although the literature identifies the presence of five species in Peru, we do not know the species that are caught by fishers or whether the current level of landings is affecting guitarfish populations. Data gaps relating to the correct identification of guitarfish and which species are being caught make it difficult to apply adequate fisheries management. Therefore this project aims to generate a baseline for the correct identification and fisheries data of guitarfish, so that they can be incorporated into the National Action Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks, Rays and Related Species in Peru (NAP Peru). It also aims to study future trends so that decision-makers can address the problem and propose fisheries management measures to ensure the fishery is sustainable. However, the trade in guitarfish provides economic income to artisanal fishers at several locations, so any conservation measures proposed also need to take into account the effects that may follow for humans.
Outside the USA, The Bahamas is the only place where Critically Endangered smalltooth sawfish can reliably be found. Tristan wants to ensure that protection measures in The Bahamas are understood and enforced as far as sawfish are concerned to close the current gap between policy and the people. He’ll be using aerial surveys, sonar and BRUVs, combined with interviews that draw on local knowledge, to identify essential sawfish habitats that need protection. Engaging with the community through workshops and by training students and meeting with government, Tristan intends to advocate for smalltooth sawfish protection throughout The Bahamas’ territorial waters.
Steven and Kevin are using genetic techniques to understand how Caribbean reef shark populations are connected across the extent of their range. Populations of this Endangered shark are in decline generally, but where they are managed and there is effective protection, their numbers are stable. With the integration of the correct information, Steven and Kevin are convinced that we can give Caribbean reef sharks a better shot at recovery and population stabilisation. They will also explore any barriers to connectivity, looking to the future recruitment and recovery of these sharks.
With very little information available about Endangered sicklefin devil rays, their seasonal aggregations at sea mounts in the Azores give Sophie an opportunity to learn more about their lives. She will be collecting satellite-tracking data that show how they move in the Azores’ exclusive economic zone. The information she collects will be used to develop maps of how the rays are using the zone and to identify essential areas that multiple species use. With this information at hand, Sophie hopes her work can contribute to a network of marine protected areas.