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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Fisher insights into rhino ray status, utilisation, and conservation at five major fishing harbours in India

Divya Karnad*, Alissa Barnes, Sushmita Mukherji, Narayani Subramaniam, Rima W. Jabado

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Rhino rays (order Rhinopristiformes) are among the most threatened marine species. India isone of the world’s top shark and ray fishing nations and harbours a high diversity of these species, but research on them has been limited. This study provides insights on rhino ray status, utilisation, and conservation across 5 large fishing harbours in India (Porbandar, Mumbai, Chennai, Ganjam, and Digha) by describing fisher’s ecological knowledge of fisheries interactions, patterns of catches and utilisation, and perceptions and attitudes towards rhino ray conservation. Interviews (n = 161) reveal that rhino rays are considered bycatch (99.3% of respondents), with catch declines of up to 95% in the last decade (85%, n = 137) and unsustainable fishing noted as the leading cause of declines. Primary utilisation was for local consumption (71%, n = 114), mostly as fresh meat. Large-bodied individuals (>1 m total length [TL]) could reportedly be sold for the fin trade or locally consumed. Small-bodied individuals (<1 m TL) were reportedly discarded at sea, consumed, or considered trash fish. Knowledge of products, prices, and trends in utilisation was mostly anecdotal and it was evident that respondents’ concern for rhino ray conservation was very low. The lack of ecological knowledge was assessed to be due to population declines. Overall, 78% of respondents (n = 126) had higher use-oriented attitudes towards rhino rays than conservation-oriented attitudes. Hence, conservation actions need to be complemented with policies to protect rhino ray species and critical habitats. Findings demonstrate the urgency of immediate conservation actions and recording ecological knowledge for these species.