Sri Lanka Shark and Ray Project


Principal Investigator: Daniel Fernando.

Project Managers: Rosalind Bown & Akshay Tanna.

Research Assistants: Ramajeyam Gobiraj, Buddhi Maheshika, & Sahan Thilakaratna.

Location: Fish landing sites across Sri Lanka, with a focus on Negombo and Valaichchenai.

Current Status: Ongoing since August 2017.

Expert Advisors: Debra Abercrombie & David A. Ebert.

Additional Information: This project is jointly conducted with the manta and mobula surveys: http://www.blueresources.org/srilanka-mobulid-ray-project.

Background

Growing demand for shark fins, and meat of both sharks and rays, have led to increased landings of these vulnerable species in Sri Lanka. They are landed as non-discard bycatch in fisheries targeting tuna and billfish, using gillnets and longlines as the primary fishing techniques. Wedgefish, guitarfish, and stingrays have been observed across the country, yet are considered among the most threatened and least studied elasmobranchs in the world. Many are currently categorised as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List, and in Sri Lanka no updated, comprehensive elasmobranch species list exists.

Shark populations are declining across the world, including in Sri Lanka, putting not only these species in danger but also the livelihoods of fishers depending upon them for their survival. Communities across the country rely on sharks and rays as affordable sources of protein and as a means of employment.

In conjunction with the Sri Lanka Mobulid Ray Project, Blue Resources Trust is carrying out the first long term systematic study of shark and ray landings in Sri Lanka, seeking to gather vital data for the conservation of Sri Lankan elasmobranchs. The project will collect data on all sharks, rays, wedgefish, and guitarfish landed, with a focus on species listed on the CITES and CMS Appendices.

 

Primary Objectives

The project will conduct elasmobranch fishery surveys over multiple years on the east and west coasts of Sri Lanka. To highlight the magnitude and composition of Sri Lanka’s elasmobranch fisheries, baseline data will be collected including identification photos, dimensions, sex, maturity, fishing gear used, and catch location. Tissue samples will also be collected for genetic and stable isotope analysis.

Following on from Rex de Silva’s extensive work identifying shark species in Sri Lankan waters, the Sri Lanka Shark and Ray Project aims to update the species checklist and identify range extensions of species not previously recorded in Sri Lankan waters.

Across the world over 300 new shark species have been described in the last 2 decades. This project plans to collaborate with visiting experts such as Dr. David A. Ebert (Pacific Shark Research Centre) and Debra Abercrombie to identify elasmobranch species that may have been previously undocumented.

This project also aims to increase capacity by encouraging young researchers and graduate students to join our project and learn about these species and the importance of studying them, even at fish markets. Education and awareness programs will be conducted to assist fisheries and other governmental departments with identification of species to aid the enforcement of existing legislative mandates.

Cutting off the fins of a shark - the most valuable part!

Wedgefish being transported to a retail market for its meat.

Shark at the market awaiting the auction.