Blue World Foundation: Data Collection & Protection of Sharks & Rays

Since 2015, our organization “Blue World Foundation” has conducted several research projects, orienting to environmental education outreach and community development initiatives in the Caribbean region of Guatemala. Our staff members have initiated a participatory monitoring project in two fishing communities, Quetzalito and Livingston. Based on the monitoring of the elasmobranch fisheries, our aim has been focused to train fishermen and volunteers in the collection of scientific data. The information collected to date has been used to create the baseline of Chondrichtyes (sharks, rays, and chimaeras) in the Caribbean of Guatemala. In addition, our organization has published three first recorded species of sharks in the Caribbean of Guatemala.

In addition, on May of 2017 we have begun a research project on the Pacific coast of Guatemala. This project consists in monitoring landings of the elasmobranch artisanal fishery in two coastal communities (Las Lisas and Sipacate). Preliminary results from this project have shown a high incidence of captured neonate and juvenile scalloped hammerhead shark (S. lewini). Furthermore, results from this project have shown the importance of continuing monitoring in these areas and other fishery communities, in order to determine putative nursery areas of elasmobranch species.

The first goal of this project is to continue monitoring the landings of elasmobranch fishery in the Pacific of Guatemala. There are two communities where we have been currently sampling (Las Lisas and Sipacate), and we want to include at least another fishing community (Iztapa). Adding sampling sites will create a solid database that will allow us to analyze the current status of shark and ray populations and determine the putative nursery areas of elasmobranch species along the Pacific of Guatemala.

The identify nursery areas of sharks in Guatemalan waters based on biological and fisheries records, will have an emphasis in the scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) due to unrecorded and unknown dynamic and fishing pressure of this shark species along the Central Pacific. Preliminary results of the monitoring of elasmobranch fisheries in the coast of Guatemala have showed high incidence of neonates and juveniles of S. lewini, and others species such as Rhizoprionodon longurio, Mustelus lunulatus, and Carcharhinus limbatus. It is important to identify these putative nursery areas due to the absence of management and conservation efforts in those highly frequent shark species on fishing landings and domestic and international market in Central America.

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