The guitarfish of Grand-Béréby

  • Rays & Skates
Years funded
  • 2024
  • Active
Project types
  • Conservation
  • Education
  • Research

As Ivory Coast’s first marine protected area (MPA), declared in 2022, Grand-Béréby needs ongoing research to inform a management plan that is not yet available. Three guitarfish species were identified in the MPA, although there is doubt about the identification of one species. With this in mind, Gilles has set out to confirm these observations and establish their identifications, as well as search for other potential guitarfish in the region. He is also investigating how local fishers and communities interact with guitarfish populations. With a baseline for the MPA’s guitarfish, Gilles will be able to kickstart education and awareness activities in communities around the MPA.

The guitarfish of Grand-Béréby

Gilles Florent Soro

Project leader
About the project leader

From the forest to the sea, my life has been a journey of discovery and conservation. I was born and raised in rural Côte d’Ivoire, where I developed a love for nature and wildlife. I spent my childhood exploring the forests, rivers and fields, fishing with my friends and caring for my pets. I followed my love of nature by studying biological sciences at university, specialising in animal biology as an undergraduate. There I gained an appreciation of the incredible diversity and complexity of life on earth, as well as an understanding of the threats posed by human...

Project details

Provide data for the conservation of critically endangered guitarfish species in Grand Béréby’s Marine Protected Area

Key objective

Our main objectives are to provide the first set of data on guitarfish in the Grand-Béréby Marine Protected Area by identifying the guitarfish species present in this marine protected area and to raise awareness of guitarfish conservation among local communities.

Why is this important

This project is important because it focuses on the Critically Endangered guitarfish species that occur in Grand-Béréby and intends to learn about and protect them. As small-scale fishing is allowed in this marine protected area, guitarfish are caught daily for local consumption and sale, even though they are Critically Endangered. To prevent these species from decreasing in the area and to improve knowledge about them, this project proposes activities that include research and outreach.


To sustainably protect the biodiversity of its marine ecosystems, Côte d’Ivoire created its first marine protected area in Grand-Béréby in the south-west of the country in 2022. The preliminary surveys that led to the creation of the marine protected area identified many fish species, including Critically Endangered guitarfish. As artisanal fishing is allowed in Grand-Béréby, guitarfish are taken as bycatch, and a small proportion are even targeted by fishermen. Fishing is unrestricted as there are no local or national regulations or conservation measures in place for these species (apart from those that exist as a result of them being listed in CITES Appendix II). In addition, the management plan for the Grand-Béréby Marine Protected Area, which could regulate the use of its resources, is not yet available.

As these factors make these species more vulnerable, since 2020 CEM NGO has been carrying out surveys, with the help of interns, at the Grand-Béréby fish landing site to collect data for future conservation and outreach activities. Three species of guitarfish have been identified: Glaucostegus cemiculus, Rhinobatos irvinei and R. albomaculatus. All are Critically Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List and all are listed in CITES Appendix II. There is, however, some doubt about the identification of some R. irvinei specimens that have been observed with previously unknown colour patterns.

As conservation projects usually require a certain amount of information about the subject, the project will carry out scientific research to collect data on guitarfish species in the Grand-Béréby Marine Protected Area. It will also conduct public awareness activities consisting of organising outreach sessions among local communities, hiring eco-guards from these communities, linking conservation with ecotourism and making locals aware of their rich heritage and the need to take care of it.

Aims & objectives
  • To confirm the identity of the specimens observed and the presence of other guitarfish species in the area.
  • To investigate the fishing methods and explore the interactions between the local communities and guitarfish in Grand-Béréby.
  • To establish a baseline of the guitarfish population in the marine protected area and initiate community awareness activities.