Elasmobranchs of the Persian (Arabian) Gulf ecology, human aspects and research priorities for their improved managementPublished on 17. May 2011
Alec B. M. Moore
Given widespread concern about the status of elasmobranch fishes globally, information on this group in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf is reviewed comprehensively for the first time. The Arabian region may be of overlooked significance to elasmobranch biogeography, and the environmentally unique Gulf has some highly distinctive elements of biodiversity: an endemic and critically endangered rajid skate, a rarely recorded carcharhinid shark, and preliminary molecular studies which indicate intriguing levels of distinctness from conspecifics elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific. Elasmobranchs also have a long history of association with, and exploitation by, humans around the Gulf. Despite this, Gulf elasmobranchs have been poorly researched, probably due to their low esteem as food. Information is scattered through a variety of literature, and only a handful of published works have been primarily concerned with aspects relevant to management. Key areas of concern include large reported landings by Iran; the export of fins to east Asian markets (particularly through the United Arab Emirates); potentially increasing demand for elasmobranchs for pharmaceutical products and human consumption; a reported change in elasmobranch community structure along the Iranian coast; and major degradation of the Gulf’s shallow, semi-enclosed environment. Priorities for research in the near future should include: resolution of taxonomic issues; species-level monitoring and reporting of fisheries landings by all Gulf states (including the species, pathways and fisheries involved in the fin trade locally); establishing the degree of connectivity of Gulf populations to those in adjacent waterbodies; and identification of key spatio-temporal sensitivities.