A New Scope Study by WWF-Guianas Determines the Threats Sharks and Rays Are Exposed to

Shark bycatch in the Caribbean Sea
© National Geographic / WWF

A New Scope Study by WWF-Guianas Determines the Threats Sharks and Rays Are Exposed to.

Sharks and rays populations are vulnerable to overfishing. This vulnerability is linked to their life history traits: they characteristically grow slowly, mature late and have a low reproductive rate.

As a result, populations of both species have been declining globally at a fast pace. Additionally, more and more shark species are listed as endangered or critically endangered on the IUCN red list of threatened species.


In Guyana for instance, sharks are caught primarily in the artisanal gillnet fishery, with bycatch of small juvenile sharks by the shrimp trawl fishery, while the larger species of sharks are caught by the snapper boats, targeting sharks as a supplement to their snapper fishing activity.


This overfishing is also linked to practices that are not only under-regulated but also poorly monitored. Sometimes because it is impossible to do so. Sharks are often landed with no head or fin, thus making it quite difficult to identify them.

Additionally, there is currently a limited understanding of how the local fishery system works, with unknown species composition of landings and exports and insufficient data on the stock status.

Scope study presentation at Murray House - Georgetown © Louisa Daggers

Hence, WWF-Guianas, in partnership with the University of Guyana, Department of Fisheries, Reuben Charles and the University of Toronto, just recently conducted a Scoping Study in the artisanal fishery industry, as a first step to fill these gaps.


Findings revealed a series of threats and data. The landing sites surveys showed that sharks are captured in substantial amounts and 14 species were confirmed during DNA analysis.

The general scope study also underlined the high level of complexity of this conservation matter, which also entails the traditional beliefs of people involved within the fishing industry.

For instance, many fishermen do not capture rays since it is their belief that they can cause bad luck.


Hopefully this research, whose results have been presented on november 2nd in Georgetown (Guyana), will allow a reduction of the threats caused by overfishing and other related activities, thus preserving the biodiversity of our sea.