Ramón is combining modern (environmental DNA, BRUVs and UAVs) and traditional methods to search for sharks and rays in two coastal nursery areas in Mexico. He wants to find essential shark areas on the Mexican Caribbean coast that can feed into the IUCN’s Important Shark and Rays Areas (ISRAs) process, putting key habitats on the map with the information needed to protect them. To do so, he’s reconstructing the past use of these coastal nurseries and comparing how sharks are using them now. Then he can see what’s changed, and decipher why that could be vital information to champion the restoration of Mexico’s shark nurseries.
I am an internationally recognised elasmobranch researcher with more than 35 years of experience in the conservation, fisheries management, biology and ecology of this fantastic group of fish. My background includes an MSc from University of Bangor, UK, and a PhD from the University of British Columbia, Canada. I have worked at the National Fisheries Institute (Mexico), Far Seas Fisheries Research Institute of Japan, the FAO (Rome, Italy), PERSGA (Red Sea), the Wildlife Conservation Society, MARVIVA (Eastern Tropical Pacific) and two federal universities in Brazil. I am a founding member of...
I want to find out if any – and which – species of sharks and rays still use each of two coastal areas as nursery grounds and compare this information with historical records. This will allow us to identify potential impacts and ways to restore the ecological function of these areas as shark nurseries.
Sharks and rays have been fished for many decades in Mexico and there are indications that some species might already be overexploited. However, very little research has been done on shark and ray nurseries in Mexico. Identifying their nurseries is urgent: it is the first and basic step that will enable us to define which habitats and areas are important in their life cycles, so that we can ask managers to take this into consideration.
Sharks and rays are among the most threatened animals worldwide: more than a third of them face extinction and this is worse in tropical areas, where 75% of them are threatened. Overfishing and habitat destruction, especially in coastal areas, are the main causes of their decline. Lagoons, bays and estuaries are key habitats for many shark and ray species because this is where the newborn spend months or years sheltered from predators and enjoying abundant food. In Mexico, sharks and rays have been exploited for a long time. Fisheries targeting them expanded greatly about 50 years ago, but have been showing signs of decline in recent decades – a possible indication of overfishing. Unfortunately, research on shark nurseries in Mexico has been limited. Meanwhile, recent interviews with fishers suggest that shark nurseries around the Yucatan peninsula have greatly deteriorated over the past 50 years. Research into shark nurseries in Mexico and their apparent deterioration is urgent so that these nurseries can be restored to their ecological function and help the recovery of shark populations. Recently, Important Shark and Ray Areas (ISRAs) have been highlighted as a powerful tool to help decision-makers visualise the relevance and fragility of specific areas to sharks and rays. However, ISRAs require input information that does not always exist, especially in non-developed regions. Our study aims to fill an important information gap by expanding our knowledge of shark nurseries in Mexico, assessing the impacts they have suffered over time and proposing solutions. We will use modern science (eDNA, BRUVs, UAVs) and traditional methods to detect sharks and rays in two coastal areas. We will also reconstruct the past use of these water bodies by sharks so that we can measure the level of impact on these important habitats, identify potential reasons and propose recovery measures.
Our main aim is to identify areas of special importance for the conservation of sharks and rays along the Caribbean coast of Mexico to feed information into the ISRAs process in the short-term. For this, we plan to
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.