Elasmobranch populations worldwide are severely threatened due to overexploited and unregulated fisheries. Despite the fact that sharks and rays are captured in fisheries operating along the Red Sea coast of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), information on any aspects of these fisheries are very limited. Here we document the structure, composition and biological characteristics of eastern Red Sea elasmobranch fisheries based on genetic identification and market survey data over an intensive two-year sampling period at the biggest Red Sea fish market in the KSA (Jeddah). Market surveys conducted two times per month between 2011 and 2013 revealed that 24 previously confirmed elasmobranch species for the Red Sea were landed by fishers and offered for sale. Genetic identification revealed two potentially undescribed guitarfish species as well as four batoid species not formerly reported from the Red Sea. Five coastal carcharhinid species dominated the landings-. Carcharhinus sorrah, C. amblyrhynchos, C. falciformis, C. limbatus, Rhizoprionodon acutus, together comprising 73% numerically of the total catch. Targeted shark fisheries reportedly exist in shark nursery areas. Most elasmobranchs outside of these areas were reportedly landed as bycatch. Most strikingly, the large majority of landed elasmobranchs were immature males or females below their reported size of sexual maturity, which suggests potential for both growth and recruitment overfishing and emphasizes the urgent need to implement region-specific management and conservation strategies to avoid the loss of these critical predators.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Aquatic Science