What’s the catch? Understanding shark catches in large-scale, data limited artisanal fisheries.

  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2021
  • Active
Project types
  • Conservation
  • Education
  • Research
  • Blue Resources Trust

Daniel and the team from the Blue Resource Trust want to understand which sharks, rays and skates are caught in Sri Lanka’s artisanal fisheries. They are focused on landing sites around Valaichchenai in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, where many small boats still land on the beaches rather than a central harbour, making precise data collection difficult. The team hopes to identify sharks in fishers’ catches, and use their data to apply cutting-edge modelling techniques. Their aim is to extend what they learn here to the rest of Sri Lanka, and perhaps the world!

What’s the catch? Understanding shark catches in large-scale, data limited artisanal fisheries.

Daniel Fernando

Project leader
About the project leader

Iam the co-founder of the Blue Resources Trust and the principal scientist of the Sri Lanka Elasmobranch Project. Since 2013 I have also been providing technical support for elasmobranch management policy at conventions such as CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and CMS (the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species), helping to bridge the gap between science and policy and encouraging a shift toward sustainable fisheries. I served as an adviser to Sri Lanka’s Minister of Wildlife from 2015 to 2018 and currently am a member of the IUCN SSG Shark Specialist Group...

Project details

A toolkit to determine elasmobranch CPUE for large-scale, data-limited artisanal fisheries in developing countries

Key objective

To develop a long-term monitoring program for shark and ray species caught in Sri Lanka’s small scale fisheries. This is essential to help assess the health of Sri Lanka’s inshore shark and ray populations and reduce future risk to the species found here.

Why is this important

Unlike many developed nations, Sri Lanka faces huge challenges in assessing the catch rates from inshore commercial fishing. This is largely a result of approximately 900 landing sites, often unmarked and unofficial, along the coastline. This is exacerbated by the slow growth and late maturation of many sharks and rays, making them vulnerable to overfishing. As such it is essential to find a way to monitor the impact of these inshore fisheries on these magnificent and often highly threatened species.


Small Scale Fisheries (SSFs) employ the majority of fishers around the world and contribute almost half the global catch. Despite this, data from them is often restricted due to their decentralised nature. Combining the aforementioned difficulties in data collection with the associated risk of many sharks and ray species to over-exploitation by fishing creates the perfect storm for rapid declines in populations. These issues highlight the need for cost-effective and reproducible frameworks by which catch rates can be collected from SSFs. This would allow scientists globally to more effectively monitor elasmobranch stocks, thus allowing identification of high risks stocks before collapse occurs. With this project, we aim to adapt the FAO guidelines for catch rates and effort data collection and optimise it for a small scale fishery in Sri Lanka. Once this is effective, we will develop a toolkit that will allow the same sampling and data analysis methodology to be implemented in other sites across Sri Lanka, and across the region with similar fisheries. Alongside the development of CPUE time series, baseline fishery data on the biology of the species and the economics of the fishery will also be collected. These will be utilised for analyses in a much shorter time frame compared to the more long-term CPUE time series. The data will be used to give information on the current health of species caught in the fishery, whilst simultaneously gathering baseline data on data-deficient species. During and after the development and deployment of the successful monitoring protocol, this project will build a public access toolkit and complementary R-package. This will aid other organisations, researchers and government agencies in establishing their own monitoring programs and promote the monitoring of SSFs within Sri Lanka and across the region while ensuring comparability across datasets collected by different institutes.

Aims & objectives

The aim of this project is to develop a long term monitoring program for shark and ray species caught in Sri Lanka’s small scale fisheries. The objectives are as follows:

  • Develop and trial a data collection scheme for sharks and rays in artisanal fisheries.
  • Continue collection of biological data at landing sites to improve our knowledge of the species and develop indicators on the health of populations.
  • Develop a best practice toolkit to help and promote the collection of data from similar fisheries all over Sri Lanka.
  • Run a capacity building workshop to understand the next steps in analysing and assessing shark and ray populations in the area.