Eduardo’s project will be running stable isotope analyses to understand what baby hammerhead sharks are eating and how they are using different habitats. He is focusing on three nursery areas that were identified in southern Peru, testing whether there are differences between the hammerhead populations in each nursery, and which baby hammerheads are in the best condition. This information will be used to inform conservation and management plans for each nursery area or baby hammerhead population.
I have been interested in the interaction and connection between humans and marine ecosystems since I was a child. I was amazed by fishers’ stories about the big sharks or the sea lions they saw. Contact with fishers also helped me to understand the essential role of the ocean in coastal communities’ efforts to earn a livelihood. When I graduated as a marine biologist, I started working with rays and was very surprised that so little is known about their ecology, given that rays are such an important component of the Peruvian fishery. So I started working as a researcher...
The project aims to assess the trophic niche (where and what they eat) and nutritional state (how fit they are) of juvenile smooth hammerhead sharks in three shark nursery areas along the coast of northern Peru in order to guide where conservation efforts should be directed to benefit rapidly declining smooth hammerhead populations.
Globally, the abundance of smooth hammerhead sharks has declined drastically over the past decade due to overfishing. The relative importance of the three nursery areas for smooth hammerhead recruitment is not yet known. As it is impossible to protect all three areas, we will evaluate the importance of each one to help decide which should be prioritised for conservation.
The Northern Humboldt Current Ecosystem is a zone of high abundance for smooth hammerhead sharks from the coastline to approximately 150 kilometres (93 miles) offshore. This zone is characterised by coastal upwelling and high fish productivity and accommodates an important artisanal fishery. The smooth hammerhead populations could be fully exploited in Peru, but historically neonates and juveniles dominated fishery landings in summer. This fact led to the closure of the smooth hammerhead fishery between January and March. Despite this, the smooth hammerhead catches have been decreasing and no biomass recovery has been observed. Shark nursery areas are coastal zones of abundant food resources that accommodate juvenile sharks, facilitating their growth and recruitment to adult populations. Three potential smooth hammerhead nursery areas have been identified in this zone, based on the frequency of neonate and juvenile captures. One is located in the Tropical East Pacific Marine Province and the other two in the Warm Temperate South-eastern Pacific Marine Province. The IUCN has recommended ‘the protection of known adult aggregation sites and nursery areas’ for this species due to its essential ecological role as a top predator. Nevertheless, there is no scientific evidence to assess the quality and contribution of these nursery areas to overall population recruitment. Studies to obtain such evidence are essential so that appropriate marine protected areas for effective conservation may be designated. In Peru, only three marine protected areas exist to date, but none focuses on the conservation of recruitment areas of open-water marine species. One more marine protected area, which included a smooth hammerhead nursery area as well as open-water habitats, was proposed in the north of Peru, but its proclamation foundered due to the lack of scientific evidence of benefits for target species.
The aims and objectives of this project are:
Outside the USA, The Bahamas is the only place where Critically Endangered smalltooth sawfish can reliably be found. Tristan wants to ensure that protection measures in The Bahamas are understood and enforced as far as sawfish are concerned to close the current gap between policy and the people. He’ll be using aerial surveys, sonar and BRUVs, combined with interviews that draw on local knowledge, to identify essential sawfish habitats that need protection. Engaging with the community through workshops and by training students and meeting with government, Tristan intends to advocate for smalltooth sawfish protection throughout The Bahamas’ territorial waters.
Steven and Kevin are using genetic techniques to understand how Caribbean reef shark populations are connected across the extent of their range. Populations of this Endangered shark are in decline generally, but where they are managed and there is effective protection, their numbers are stable. With the integration of the correct information, Steven and Kevin are convinced that we can give Caribbean reef sharks a better shot at recovery and population stabilisation. They will also explore any barriers to connectivity, looking to the future recruitment and recovery of these sharks.
With very little information available about Endangered sicklefin devil rays, their seasonal aggregations at sea mounts in the Azores give Sophie an opportunity to learn more about their lives. She will be collecting satellite-tracking data that show how they move in the Azores’ exclusive economic zone. The information she collects will be used to develop maps of how the rays are using the zone and to identify essential areas that multiple species use. With this information at hand, Sophie hopes her work can contribute to a network of marine protected areas.