Forensic species identification of elasmobranchs landed in Costa Rican artisanal fisheries

Published on
24. September 2020

Forensic species identification of elasmobranchs landed in Costa Rican artisanal fisheries

Jason R.O’Bryhim, E.C.M. Parsons, Stacey L. Lance


Elasmobranchs represent one of the most imperiled taxa, yet few nations have developed catch limits and no international or bilateral catch limits exist. One barrier to establishing catch limits is a lack of accurate species-specific extraction rates due to many species looking similar, distinguishing characteristics (fins and head) being removed, or grouping of all elasmobranchs together in fisheries data. To better understand the species-specific impacts fisheries are having on elasmobranchs we used forensic genetic techniques to identify the types and quantities of shark species landed in Costa Rican artisanal small-scale and mid-scale fisheries. We collected elasmobranch tissue samples from fishermen in three locations along Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast: Coyote, Bejuco, and Ojochal, from April 2013 to September 2014. We used DNA barcoding techniques, utilizing a 1044 base pair region of the NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 gene, to identify to species 275 of the 416 samples collected. Within these fisheries, seven species of shark and one ray were identified, with the scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) accounting for ∼75−80% of all sharks landed. Observed total lengths (TL) for the scalloped hammerhead shark (10.9–99 cm) in these fisheries suggests the sharks sampled were all either juveniles or neonates. Based on these data it is likely that the areas from which these samples were collected represent nursery grounds for the scalloped hammerhead shark. The quantity of young scalloped hammerhead sharks removed from these areas, and ones similar to them, by these artisanal fisheries could be of great importance when determining future conservation measures for this species. Our findings also indicate that sharks caught in these artisanal fisheries do not appear to represent those sold in markets around San Jose.

Fisheries Research, Volume 233, January 2021, DOI: 10.1016/j.fishres.2020.105755


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