Project duration: 08/2023 – 12/2024
Guitarfish have faced decades of exploitation, resulting in significant population declines and localized extinctions across their range. The blackchin guitarfish, in particular, has experienced severe reductions; largely disappearing from the northern Mediterranean and persisting in low numbers in the South Mediterranean. It is estimated that its population has decreased by over 80% in the past 50 years. This decline is primarily caused by historical fishing pressure from artisanal and industrial fisheries. This species is heavily targeted for its prized meat and fins in various markets. Additionally, coastal development and tourism activities are suspected to disrupt the critical reproductive processes of the Blackchin guitarfish, a species with already low population numbers. While aggregations have been observed in a few Mediterranean locations like Cyprus, their reproductive grounds overlap significantly with fishing activities, particularly recreational surfcasting.
This project aims to monitor and protect the critically endangered blackchin guitarfish by educating fishers and providing them with the necessary tools to contribute to species conservation through citizen science. By raising awareness and instructing the fishing community how to safely handle, measure and report their interactions with the species, the project ultimately seeks to collect valuable information on the species and its population, while reducing harm to captured individuals during fishing activities.
- Fishing expeditions will be organized, including competitions and derbies for recreational fishers. The goal is to tag a minimum of 100 guitarfish individuals using spaghetti tags. Fishers will actively participate in the tagging process, gaining hands-on experience in proper handling techniques and understanding the significance of conservation efforts.
- Three workshops will be organised, tailored to the needs of local stakeholders, primarily recreational fishers, with the aim of educating them on accurate guitarfish reporting, safe releasing, identification, existing regulations, and legislation. These workshops will also aim to establish robust communication with authorities, initiating further discussions on enhancing the existing framework concerning the species, based on project’s results.
- Educational materials and tools for citizen science reporting will be provided to fishers, including specialized rulers with a guitarfish logo.
- A peer-reviewed scientific publication will be produced, summarising the project’s findings, and contributing to the literature surrounding the conservation of the blackchin guitarfish.
- Interviews will be conducted with fishers to gather their Local Ecological Knowledge. The interviews will cover topics such as fishers’ education and awareness, long-term population trends, changes in guitarfish abundance, interactions with fisheries, and hotspot areas.
A bit about the organizations
Marine & Environmental Research (MER) Lab, the leading organization of this project, is an environmental organisation composed by marine biologists, environmental biologists, and educators who specialize in the provision of services that relate to the marine environment, fisheries and aquaculture. MER has been working closely with local stakeholders of the sectors for the past decades implementing numerous research projects and guiding public bodies. MER has implemented numerous projects related to alien species including monitoring surveys in marine protected areas, social surveys with relevant stakeholders, and policy-oriented projects to guide cost-effective management.
iSea, the supporting partner on this action, is an Environmental Organization founded in 2016 in Thessaloniki, Greece. iSea’s goal is to preserve the aquatic habitats, including the fauna and flora, which inhabit them through research, raising awareness and the promotion of conservation policies.