Jennifer’s research will start in the world’s busiest amulet market of Tha Prachan in Bangkok, Thailand. From there, she’ll be tracing trade and supply chain routes through other markets and ports to glean information from local traders and fishers. Her focus is on collecting data on bowmouth products: how much is present in the markets? What drives the trade? She hopes that these data will help inform critical research and data gaps and contribute to informing trade policy, both nationally and internationally.
I spent my early childhood on the east coast of Canada, racing into the icy cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Whale watching was a rare excursion that my three siblings and I could all agree on. Memories of breaching whales have faded over the years, but one memory from these trips has stood the test of time: a fisher reeling in a formidable fish – a shark! Transferring to the landlocked province of Alberta removed me from the seascape, and my intellectual pursuits eventually focused on law and policy. After completing a BA in international relations, I worked as...
The overall aim is to characterize the physical bowmouth amulet trade and understand the relationship between products and people in Thailand to inform management, enforcement, and CITES.
The bowmouth guitarfish is a Critically Endangered and CITES-listed ray. Their numbers have undergone severe declines, and though protected in Thailand, this is where their characteristic large thorns are found made into jewellery and traded for “protective powers”. The market for their thorns has been unresearched and unquantified, but quantifying their volume and value can provide a low-cost method to inform management and policy recommendations.
The unsustainable trade of elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) is contributing to their drastic declines, yet very little attention outside the trade of fins and meat is given any attention. Wedgefishes are one of the most threatened families of marine fishes and all known species were CITES Appendix II listed in late 2019. Bowmouth are without species-specific management plans and are in need of data to inform conservation measures. Occurring in coastal waters, around coral reefs and on the continental shelf, bowmouth have very low productivity (about 2-11 pups per litter) with very little known of their life history or population status over time. They are caught through targeted and incidental catch and retained for their high-quality meat and high-value fins. Indeed, bowmouth fins fetch among the highest value in the fin trade. Monitoring trade volumes of shark and ray products can act as a proxy for landings data and fill critical data gaps that can be difficult to otherwise difficult to obtain. The trade of elasmobranch fins is well established but gathering species-specific information is difficult, costly, and time-consuming. Research of the elasmobranch curios trade is lacking and in the case of the bowmouth, non-existent. Results from my initial bowmouth research clearly demonstrates an online demand and market for bowmouth thorns. The work here funded by Save our Seas Foundation will quantify the physical dimension of trade in bowmouth products in Thailand. Additionally, I will investigate the socio-economic drivers of thorn trade specifically with reference to existing Thai enforcement and management. My proposed outputs will provide concrete evidence of direct relevance to the conservation of this endangered species, specifically critical non-detriment findings that are currently unavailable for bowmouth in Thailand (and most of its range states).
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.
Ali is collaborating with researchers across North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean to develop support tools for guitarfish conservation. As an advocate, much of her work is completed behind a computer and locked in meetings, but her goal is to help bring awareness to the threatened status of guitarfish in the Mediterranean. The current Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust, Ali represents a large number of regional partners to engage with governments, develop new resources and coordinate guitarfish conservation activities.