The deep-water sharks of Puerto Rico

  • Rays & Skates
  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2021
  • Active
Project types
  • Conservation
  • Education

Glorimar is finding baseline information on which sharks and rays are being caught and consumed in Puerto Rico’s fisheries. In fact, there is little information on where sharks and rays are found in this region, what their diversity is and how they are fished. This project is employing molecular tools to help contribute to this much-needed knowledge while translating findings to the wider Puerto Rican community through education to bring awareness to shark conservation.

The deep-water sharks of Puerto Rico

Glorimar Franqui-Rivera

Project leader
About the project leader

My love for sharks has been stronger than for any other sea creature, despite the fact that my first meeting with such a mighty creature was less than auspicious. My father and his family have always been keen fishers, out of necessity and for sport, and it was this that led to my first encounter with a shark. It was lying on a table, dead, waiting to be chopped into pieces and sold. I marvelled at how such a strong and feared animal could appear so weak and helpless. It looked, quite literally, out of its element. To this day,...

PROJECT LOCATION : Puerto Rico, Mona Island
Project details

Survey of Deep-Water Shark in Puerto Rico

Key objective

The aim of this proposed project is to study deep-water sharks that are caught in the Mona Passage and document shark populations through genetic and taxonomic identification to better understand their role in the Mona Island ecosystem.

Why is this important

This species, are caught as bycatch by local fishermen and used for consumption. As in other Caribbean islands, coastal Puerto Rico depends heavily on local fisheries as a source of income. Consequently, sharks have been fished for consumption without any concerns for their conservation. The reality is that there exists no baseline data that would allow us to make recommendations to Resource Management Agencies for stricter laws and regulations that protect sharks.


For fisheries data collection and management, proper identification of shark species is the most crucial hurdle to bypass, and the use of a molecular tool could assist in fisheries’ independent assessments of shark diversity in Puerto Rico. DNA barcoding has proven to be a powerful tool in assisting conventional morphological taxonomic methods in species identification, ideal when species are difficult to identify. The goal of this project is to keep document shark diversity in Puerto Rico using DNA barcoding of sharks using samples from local fishers. To achieve this goal, we collected shark tissue and shark photos from local fishers and used partial sequences of the mitochondrial NADH2 gene to produce the first list of deep-water shark species diversity in Mona Island (one of the most important places of local fisheries) in Puerto Rico.  We first initiated our collaboration with local fishers in 2017 to dispel the latent distrust and fear they held about working with academia. We have made substantial progress already and now routinely work with two deep-sea fishers in the region. Our next steps are to create educational workshops about shark identification and conservation and to expand the number of fishers with whom we collaborate. With the help of an expanded network of fishers, we will create a population map of deep-water sharks and measure the incidence of different shark species in the bycatch. We will collaborate with the DNR Puerto Rico to design a management strategy that will both benefit local stakeholders and artisanal fishers while ensuring the long-term health of Mona Island as a natural marine reserve.  Also, to increase the likelihood of success our educational campaign will collaborate with three departmental organisations. These agencies have committed to help create activities and webinars on shark conservation around the Island. The training will focus on how to respectfully interact with fishers to develop trusting collaborative relationships.

Aims & objectives

There are two goals for this project which aim to:

  • Address the lack of data available to fisheries management regarding shark diversity and representation in the Mona Island in Puerto Rico fishery,
  • Increase awareness of shark conservation importance among the local community and understand the ecological role for each of the deep-water shark species using Stable Isotopes.

These goals will be achieved from the following objectives:

  • Create a species list of the diversity of sharks being caught by fishers throughout the Mona  Island of Puerto Rico by using DNA barcoding methods and Morphological Identification.
  • Educate the local community through local outreach regarding shark species identification, shark fishing bans and shark conservation.
  • To identify the likely ecological role for each of the deep-water shark species using Stable Isotopes.