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:
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.