By trawling the fish markets and landing sites of Ghana’s coastline, Issah is surveying the patterns in catch composition over time for sharks and rays in artisanal fisheries. In doing so, he is also raising awareness about the best fishing practices that safeguard sharks and rays and garnering fishers’ support for sharks and the conservation of ocean ecosystems in Ghana.
I am a young and emerging leader in shark and ray conservation in Ghana. My career goal is to initiate ecological research and conservation programmes that lead to positive impacts on sharks and rays in West Africa. I have been fascinated by sharks since my childhood, but my initial fear of them prevented me from making a career of studying them until July 2016. That was when I went on holiday to Dixcove, where the local fishermen target mostly sharks to earn their livelihoods. While there, I accompanied the fishermen on their fishing expeditions and regularly saw sharks in the...
This project aims to provide the first comprehensive data on ecology, biology, socio-economic and trade characteristics on guitarfishes, wedgefishes and sawfishes, and utilize community-driven conservation programs to garner community support for their conservation. The project will also organize stakeholders workshops aim at developing conservation strategy for the species in Ghana.
The proposed project is unique as it seeks to provide the first critically important and comprehensive baseline data on the ecology, biology, cultural, uses, socio-economic and trade dynamics of most-at-risk shark-like batoids in Ghana. With these data, local authorities will be able to devise effective and relevant management strategies and conservation initiatives to safeguard these species from extinction in Ghana. The project also aims to definitely confirm if indeed the two sawfishes (Pristis pritis and Pristis pectina) are extinct in the Ghanaian waters as they have been listed as Possibly Extinct according to the IUCN threat status. The project further aims to mitigate threats to shark-like batoids, other elasmobranchs and the associated marine habitat by extending and tailoring conservation education and awareness creation campaigns to key stakeholders in the fishing industry as well as children and youth-alike in their various coastal communities.
Extinction risk assessments reveal that sawfishes, wedgefishes and guitarfishes are amongst the most threatened marine fishes and are of global conservation concern. Wedgfishes and giant guitarfishes have recently overtaken sawfishes as the most-at-risk marine fish families globally. All but one out of the 16 species have been assessed as Critically Endangered and facing extremely high risk of extinction. Their traits encompassing limited biological productivity and presence in shallow waters, coupled with increasing pattern of exploitation, incentivized by the high demand for their lucrative fins and meat are key factors causing predominant decline of shark-like batoids populations worldwide. However, global conservation strategy released by the IUCN has resulted in a significant progress in raising global awareness and implementing management plans on the plight of sawfishes. Conservation strategy is yet to be developed for wedgefishes and guitarfishes but a call for urgent actions on them has been reported. Although, shark-like batoids still remain an important component in fisheries in the West African sub-region, their presence and status in fisheries across their ranges in the sub-region, and as such, Ghana are poorly studied. Though, there is anecdotal report gleaned from artisanal fishers that suggest sawfishes have not been observed and/ or caught in the marine waters of Ghana for decades, and a remarkable reduction in the catch stock of wedgefishes and guitarfishes, there is no scientific data to validate this claim. This lack of scientific data impedes effort to develop any comprehensive conservation strategy to protect these species. Consequently, the proposed project seeks to provide the first comprehensive scientific data on the ecology, biology, historical distribution as well as some insight into the uses, socio-economics and trade dynamics of shark-like batoids in Ghana.
In the Mediterranean, species such as guitarfishes, the spiny butterfly ray and angel sharks are all Critically Endangered or Endangered, making their conservation management vital. Ioannis is using a combination of local knowledge, BRUVs and scuba surveys to search for key aggregation areas and essential habitats for the elasmobranchs of Kos Island in the South Aegean Sea.
Karissa is using acoustic telemetry to track wedgefishes and the giant guitarfish to fill in the gaps on where these species move and how deep they swim in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She will be updating anecdotal information that guides where these shark-like rays can be found and will add her findings about how they live, so that the correct management plans can be put in place for the Critically Endangered species.
Juan is collecting environmental DNA (eDNA) samples from the estuaries and mangroves of Colombia’s Chocó region. He is uncovering the presence and distribution of largetooth sawfishes on the Colombian Pacific coast by detecting traces of their DNA left behind as signatures in their environment. The Critically Endangered largetooth sawfish – known locally as ‘El Guacapa’ – is typically found in estuaries and thought to be resident in some of Central and South America’s freshwater systems. Knowing exactly where this sawfish occurs is critical to its conservation.