Jan 27

#LoveSpecies nominee: common guitarfish

Nominated by: Shark Advocates

Why should you love it?

Guitarfish are rays characterized by magnificent, triangular, flattened heads. They have “wings” like rays, but also shark-like bodies, complete with tall, pointy dorsal fins, which help to demonstrate how closely sharks and rays are related. Guitarfish spend their time cruising along the seabed, or partially buried in the sand. They are beautiful from above and, depending on your imagination, can appear rather expressive from below. Guitarfish give birth to just a few fully-formed pups, which are – arguably — the cutest things ever. Somehow, these charismatic fish are not getting anywhere near the love they deserve, and are now among the most threatened of all the world’s shark and ray families. The “Common” Guitarfish of West Africa and the Mediterranean is one of the most imperilled of the many guitarfish species.

What are the threats to the common guitarfish?

The main threat to guitarfish around the world is overfishing, through both targeted and incidental catches that are too often completely unregulated. They are taken for their meat and for their fins, which are highly prized for shark fin soup. Their bottom-dwelling nature makes guitarfish vulnerable to a variety of fishing gears, including bottom-tending gillnets and trawls. Their nearshore habitats are at risk from fishing impacts as well as development and pollution. Once found all around the Mediterranean and along the west coast of Spain and Africa, the Common Guitarfish is common no more; the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies this species as Endangered and warns it may already be extinct in some parts of its range.

What is Shark Advocates International doing to save it?

We’re supporting IUCN Shark Specialist Group efforts to raise the global conservation profile of all guitarfishes, and – more specifically —  working with Shark Trust, Project AWARE, and other partners to ensure fulfilment of commitments to protect the Common Guitarfish (and 23 other elasmobranchs) under Mediterranean fisheries and wildlife treaties, such as the Barcelona Convention. We also promote capacity building for West African shark and ray conservation, highlight opportunities to help guitarfish through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and support implementation of the recent Common Guitarfish listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Thank you for your help!

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