Assessing the status of threatened elasmobranchs in the Andamans, India

Zoya Irshad Tyabji

In the recent past, there has been a decline in elasmobranch numbers globally owing to their increased demand in fisheries. Elasmobranchs are vulnerable to over-exploitation with a limited ability for recovery if fishing intensity is not managed. The increased demand of sharks and rays in the southeast Asian markets from the 1960’s and increased mechanisation of its fishing fleets has put India among the top three shark-harvesters of the world. Since the first record of its existence in 1966–67, elasmobranch fishery in the Andaman Islands have been largely unregulated and not monitored. While the current monitoring of the fishery provides collective information on the catch harvested, species-wise information is greatly lacking. Consequently, threatened species like the hammerheads, thresher sharks, mantas and devil rays are being exploited, the information on their ecology and biology remains scarce. Keeping this in mind, we aim to initiate a participatory approach to involve fishers to collect demographic and biological data of these species by providing training and a specialised toolkit. In addition, we will work on spreading awareness across stakeholder communities and local schools through interactive programs and workshops. The project results will be targeted towards filling knowledge gaps that can advise species-specific management practices.