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.
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,...
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.
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.
The goals of this project are:
Achieving the following objectives will lead to reaching these goals:
Tom has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tease apart the impacts of human visitation, climate change and fishing on Adélie, Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins. Using drone footage, camera data and faecal samples collected in 2020/21 and into 2022, he’s monitoring Antarctica in years with minimal human footprint due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Tom wants to know whether rising sea temperatures, increasing krill fishing or a growing tourism presence is driving declines of Antarctic Peninsula penguins. By comparing 10 years’ of monitoring data to these data, he hopes to use his findings to inform policy decisions to conserve the Antarctic Peninsula’s penguin colonies.
Demian’s team is developing tools that help border control officers identify illegal shark products. His project is sifting through ‘rhino ray’ DNA sequences looking for differences in code between the guitarfishes, giant guitarfishes and wedgefishes nicknamed for their pointy snouts (and Endangered status). Months of testing will help ensure only rhino ray DNA is targeted before the team flies to Hong Kong to help officials use a portable DNA tester. This project will add to the arsenal currently being used to identify illegal shark fins moving across borders, and help stop the trafficking of ‘rhino ray’ fins.
Aristide created a citizen science platform and mobile app for fishers across Cameroon’s 400 km coastline to record sightings of sharks, rays and marine life. These photos are uploaded to iNaturalist where they are identified and will serve to create Cameroon’s first elasmobranch atlas. Together with his team, Aristide ensures data are being uploaded, visits fish landing sites to assess bycatch and measure sharks, and scours the beaches to check for strandings and sea turtle nests. He collects tissue samples of threatened species in these visits that can give more insights into the diversity, population size and structure of vulnerable sharks.