The deep-water sharks of Puerto Rico

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

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

These species are taken as by-catch by local fishermen and used for consumption. As on 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 concern for their conservation. The reality is that no baseline data exist 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, the most crucial hurdle to overcome is the correct identification of shark species and 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 supporting conventional morphological taxonomic methods for identifying species and it is ideal when species are difficult to identify. The goal of this project is to document the diversity of sharks in Puerto Rico by applying DNA barcoding to samples of shark obtained 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 around Mona Island, which is one of the most important centres for fishing in Puerto Rico. Our collaboration with local fishers began in 2017 with efforts to dispel their distrust and fear of 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 record the incidence of different shark species in the by-catch. We will collaborate with Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to design a management strategy that will 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 interact with fishers respectfully so as to develop trusting collaborative relationships.

Aims & objectives

The goals of this project are:

  • To address the lack of data available to fisheries regarding the diversity of sharks and which species are being caught in the Mona Island fishery;
  • To increase the local community’s awareness of the importance of conserving sharks and of the ecological role of deep-water sharks.


Achieving the following objectives will lead to reaching these goals:

  • To create a list of shark species being caught by fishers around Mona Island by using DNA barcoding and morphological identification methods;
  • To identify the likely ecological role of each of the deep-water shark species using stable isotopes;
  • To communicate with the local community about identifying sharks, bans on shark fishing and shark conservation.