ESR 34:75-88 (2017)  -  DOI:

Are guitarfishes the next sawfishes? Extinction risk and an urgent call for conservation action

Alec B. M. Moore*

RSK Environment Ltd., Helsby, Cheshire WA6 0AR, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Focusing on the most critical conservation priorities to prevent extinctions risks missing declines of lower priority taxa that may become tomorrow’s emergency. Sawfishes (5 species) underwent catastrophic but largely unnoticed global declines in the latter part of the 20th century, and are now the subject of intensive research and conservation efforts. Guitarfishes (at least 55 species) share many characteristics with sawfishes: they are shark-like batoids with an often large body, prefer sedimentary habitats in warm shallow coastal waters exposed to intensive fisheries, and have high value fins and good quality meat. Guitarfishes represent a unique element of evolution and biodiversity and are vital components of complex coastal socio-ecological systems. Existing global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species assessments for nearly 60% of guitarfish species are 10 or more years old, and over 70% of species are either in threatened categories or Data Deficient. Recently described taxa not yet assessed include those likely to be at risk of extinction. Severe declines and localised extinctions have already been reported for guitarfishes. In notable contrast to sawfishes, total extinction of several guitarfish species is plausible given small distributions occurring solely in developing or least developed countries where conservation is highly challenging. Furthermore, species identification of guitarfishes is often problematic and they may lack the appeal often needed to promote conservation. To ensure that they do not follow the same trajectory as sawfishes, there is an urgent need for comprehensive and coordinated action on guitarfishes, which in many cases could integrate with sawfish conservation efforts.

KEY WORDS: Elasmobranch · Extinction · Fisheries · Conservation · Glaucostegidae · Rhinidae · Rhinobatidae · Trygonorrhinidae

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Cite this article as: Moore ABM (2017) Are guitarfishes the next sawfishes? Extinction risk and an urgent call for conservation action. Endang Species Res 34:75-88.

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