Years of unregulated fishing activity have resulted in low abundances of elasmobranch species in the Saudi Arabian Red Sea. Coastal populations of sharks and rays in the region remain largely understudied and may be at risk from large-scale coastal development projects. Here we aim to address this pressing need for information by using fish market, unmanned aerial vehicle and baited remote underwater video surveys to quantify the abundance and diversity of sharks and rays in coastal habitats in the Saudi Arabian central Red Sea. Our analysis showed that the majority of observed individuals were batoids, specifically blue-spotted ribbontail stingrays (Taeniura lymma) and reticulate whiprays (Himantura sp.). Aerial surveys observed a catch per unit effort two orders of magnitude greater than underwater video surveys, yet did not detect any shark species. In contrast, baited camera surveys observed both lemon sharks (Negaprion acutidens) and tawny nurse sharks (Nebrius ferrugineus), but in very low quantities (one individual of each species). The combination of survey techniques revealed a higher diversity of elasmobranch presence than using either method alone, however many species of elasmobranch known to exist in the Red Sea were not detected. Our results suggest that aerial surveys are a more accurate tool for elasmobranch abundance estimates in low densities over mangrove-associated habitats. The importance of inshore habitats, particularly for batoids, calls for a deeper understanding of habitat use in order to protect these environments in the face of unregulated fishing, mangrove removal, and anticipated developments along the coastline of the Saudi Arabian Red Sea.
|Date of Award||May 2020|
|Original language||English (US)|
- Biological, Environmental Science and Engineering
|Supervisor||Michael Berumen (Supervisor)|