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:
Anna is collecting genetic information from white shark fin clips to assess this species’ population size in South Africa. Using close-kin mark-recapture analysis instead of traditional methods, she hopes to provide an accurate account of South Africa’s white shark population size. She also aims to develop a monitoring protocol that can use genetic samples collected during shark net and drumline patrols by the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board. This information is needed in South Africa, where the conservation of a protected species is balanced against concerns about bather safety, and where sharks are caught in bather protection gear.
Faqih is filling the gaps in the scant knowledge of giant guitarfish in Java’s Karimunjawa National Park marine protected area (MPA). Karimunjawa is located near Northern Java’s main fishing grounds, but evidence of giant guitarfish caught in some of the use-zones of the MPA hints that the park may be a sanctuary for the species. Managing giant guitarfish in Karimunjawa requires species-specific information.
Faqih’s project is a socio-ecological one to help inform management and draws on new information about relative abundance and distribution, historical occurrence and fishing pressures to paint a contemporary picture of the species in the park.
Cindy wants to know if bonnethead sharks in the Eastern Pacific constitute a third, cryptic species. The Bonnethead complex need clarification in all its distribution range, and Panama is a key country to solve this question since we have the Caribbean sea and the Pacific Ocean. By collecting fin clip samples to compare species at the genetic level and collecting specimens to compare how they look (morphology), Cindy hopes to resolve the taxonomy of Sphyrna tiburo vespertina – that is, whether it’s a cryptic third species for bonnetheads in the region. Her information can help update the IUCN Red List for bonnetheads and improve fisheries policies in Latin America where bonnethead sharks are commonly caught.