All three of the endemic (occurring nowhere else in the world) houndsharks found in southern Peru and northern Chile are Critically Endangered. Responsible fishing could reduce their short-term mortality, but currently there are no management measures for these species. Carolina wants to link scientists and fishers so that they can work together for sustainable houndshark fisheries. She wants to ensure that the fisheries’ management takes the conservation of these species into account and to create awareness among both fishers and the public about the ecological role of these sharks.
I was born in Valdivia, one of the most charming (and rainy) towns in southern Chile, only 20 minutes from the ocean. I used to spend most sunny days of my childhood at the beach and I was fortunate to be able to observe artisanal fishermen and women and learn from them. One of the best parts of my weekend was the day trip to fish markets, where I got hands-on experience of the local biodiversity and went home with fish and shellfish for dinner. And that is where my passion for marine life started. As I grew...
Our key objective is to establish a link between fishers and scientists to promote sustainable fishery practices for Critically Endangered houndsharks in northern Chile, and to institute a conservation awareness strategy among local fishers and the community regarding the ecological role of Chilean houndsharks.
This is important because promoting responsible fishing to reduce fishing mortality in these species will reduce the threat of their extinction in the short term. No such project has been conducted in this region, which may be a critical refuge for houndsharks. Considering that there are no management measures for these species, it is necessary to have an integrated approach that directly involves fishers and anglers in the recovery and sustainable harvest of houndsharks in Chilean waters.
The coastal waters of southern Peru and northern Chile are biodiversity hotspots for houndsharks. Of the five species reported in the south-eastern Pacific Ocean, three are endemic to this region: the speckled smoothhound (Mustelus mento), the humpback smoothhound (M. whitneyi) and the spottedhound (Triakis maculata). All three species were historically abundant and targets of the artisanal fisheries of coastal communities in the area. Currently, all these sharks are considered Critically Endangered by the IUCN and are highly likely to go extinct over the next two generations. This risk assessment increases the need for rapid changes in fisheries management and conservation strategies to ensure their survival. However, very little is known about the basic biology of these species, which makes evidence-based management impossible. We do know that involving fishers in research can help to improve fisheries management, as their experiential knowledge can contribute to increasing the quantity and quality of data. However, good communication is crucial because fishers fear that management actions will limit their fishing opportunities. Therefore, the importance of this project is that it will generate novel skills that empower fishers to adopt fishing strategies that will reduce houndshark mortality.
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.