Little is known about how and where the Critically Endangered sharpnose guitarfish breeds and pups. But having this information, and feeding it into fisheries management plans, is essential to looking after its plummeting populations. Raha is on a mission to understand the breeding biology of this CITES-listed species because, although it is listed as a protected species in Bangladesh, the sharpnose guitarfish is still caught as a target and bycatch (incidental) species.
When I was eight, my parents took me to the coast for a holiday and I felt deeply attracted to the ocean, not least for its sheer size. In the latter stages of my school career I spent extra time studying zoology because I enjoyed it and this led to me studying for a degree in the subject. Once I became a student I spent a lot of time observing a wide range of creatures, from birds and butterflies to amphibians, nocturnal mammals and native fish. And yet I didn’t feel satisfied. In my third year of study...
The aim of this study is to draw up a conservation plan for the Critically Endangered sharpnose guitarfish by exploring its reproductive biology.
The sharpnose guitarfish Glaucostegus granulatus is considered globally Critically Endangered due to continued harvesting by artisanal and commercial fishers, despite local and international legislation. Little is known about the reproductive biology of this species in the Bay of Bengal and also globally. Information about its life history, especially its reproductive biology, could be used to make conservation management of the sharpnose guitarfish more sustainable.
Sharks and rays are at risk of extinction globally. Although the Bay of Bengal provides Bangladesh with vast marine and coastal resources, only 59 shark and ray species have been recorded so far in the country’s waters. Little is known about the elasmobranch groups of this region because of a lack of species-specific studies concerning their ecology, biology and habitats, and the trade in these species. The sharpnose guitarfish is a ray species belonging to the Rhinobatidae family and occurs in the northern Indian Ocean, from the Persian Gulf across the Bay of Bengal to Myanmar. On the verge of extinction because of continued harvesting by fishers, it has been declared Critically Endangered globally by the IUCN and is also listed on CITES Appendix II. In terms of Bangladesh’s Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act, 2012, it is protected species. However, increased demand for its meat and fins, as well as other body parts for traditional medicine, has encouraged fishers to target the sharpnose guitarfish and to keep it when it is caught by accident, despite legislation. Moreover, the legislation has driven the trade in elasmobranchs out of the public eye.
Little is known about the reproductive biology of the sharpnose guitarfish both globally and in the Bay of Bengal. To address this knowledge gap, this study will document the species’ breeding biology, especially its reproductive cycle and fecundity, the length–weight ratio of males and females, their length at maturity and how long it takes them to reach maturity. The new knowledge we gain about its reproductive biology will help to draw up a sustainable conservation strategy for this globally threatened species.
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.