Oceans and Coasts

The Giant Guitarfish Project

Team members: Evan Nazareth, Elrika D'souza, Rohan Arthur

Project timeline: 2019 - Ongoing

Giant guitarfish are close relatives of stingrays, and like many stingrays, they give birth to live young, which spend their crucial early life in shallow coastal waters before venturing into deeper seas. However, coastal waters are often the most exposed to fisheries, development, and pollution, which has led to a drastic decline in giant guitarfish numbers across their range. Given that the Andaman islands are situated in a heavily fished region and that rapid development is transforming the coastline, these already Critically Endangered species and their habitats may soon be lost.

The first phase of this project which utilized Local Ecological Knowledge of coastal communities in the Andamans unraveled the widespread distribution of juvenile giant guitarfish aggregating sites across the islands. Building upon this, we are trying to understand the importance of these aggregation sites to giant guitarrfish and characterize the habitats. This project has already highlighted the significance that these shallow coastal waters of the islands play in the life of giant guitarfish.

Focusing conservation efforts on these juvenile aggregation sites could help protect local giant guitarfish populations and serve as a safe refuge for these species.