Our localized marine megafauna need urgent protection

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It is extremely thought-provoking to see how the growing fascination found in conserving terrestrial megafauna (for example, the Bengal Tiger) is starkly different from the interest in preserving marine megafauna (sharks, rays, turtles, whales). Animals living in drinking water are generally considered as "fisheries-related" and inherently linked with food intake and livelihoods, although ecologically, a tiger and a shark happen to be equally important for ensuring the total amount of the natural world. Our failure to effectively appreciate marine family pets as animals with the right to thrive within their personal habitats is straight shaping our perceptions of these as generators of food and livelihoods. This leads to conservation activities that often fail to adequately prioritise marine family pets.

Because of this World Oceans Day, I'd like to focus on a group of local marine people from the Bay of Bengal who many have no idea even exist in our coastal waters. These animals are crucial catches for our coastal fishers as a result of their quality value in international market segments, but they also are actually just about the most critically endangered sets of marine fishes on the globe. Subsequently, they are stranded best in the center of two important agendas-conserving marine species and ensuring the well-being of men and women dependent on them. Rather than treating them as distinct, we must try to develop a bridge between these agendas by envisioning them all together, where one can't be realized without the other.

A number of these species have previously lost up to 99 percent of their populace in a large amount of areas. Some had been declared locally extinct from many tropical countries, such as the "rhino rays". The brand is extracted from the "Rhinopristiformes" family they belong to-in short, the rhinos of the ocean, who are by no means less fascinating compared to the rhinos of the territory. Commonly characterised by the existence of a protruding and relatively pointed snout, these species will be among the wonders within the bigger story of marine family pets and their evolution over thousands of years.

Landing and get surveys found in Bangladesh and neighbouring India and Myanmar indicate that the Bay of Bengal is a hotspot for several threatened and genetically distinct rhino rays. So, it didn't surprise us whenever we, through our marine conservation research at the University of Dhaka and the University of Oxford, discovered that rhino rays, incorporating those globally threatened and nationally secured, are being trapped and landed in unmonitored sites in coastal Bangladesh. They are an essential element of Bangladesh's marine biodiversity that support our artisanal fisheries (which rely upon traditional/subsistence angling). The diversity of rhino rays documented inside our studies is considerably greater than previously reported. They will be caught with a variety of fishing gear, both as by-get and targeted fishery.

At least 13 distinct rhino rays exist in Bangladeshi waters; it may be more. They participate in three wide groups-sawfish (with a saw-like rostrum which alone is often as big as five feet, whereas the complete animal could be 21 feet or even more), guitarfish (your body appears like a guitar) and wedgefish (that have amazingly spotted bodies). Typically thriving in Bangladesh's shallow and murky coastal waters, this band of animals can be an integral portion of our coastal and marine ecosystems. The Bay of Bengal provides probably the most suitable habitats for these species and probably among the last couple of habitats for globally threatened largetooth sawfish.

There are ample known reasons for rhino rays to thrive in the Bay of Bengal. Between India and Indonesia, the Bay of Bengal Huge Marine Ecosystem (BOBLME) spans across six million square kilometres and comes with vulnerable marine habitats forming four percent of the world's coral reefs and seamounts, and also nearly a tenth of the world's mangroves, seagrass beds and extensive estuaries. Such ecosystem diversity suggests that BOBLME supports a rich habitat.

Our analyses revealed that the warm tropical waters and shallow soft-bottom habitats along the coastline of southwest and south-central Bangladesh are incredibly favourable to rhino rays. These regions also are actually dominated by artisanal fisheries. The catch and trade of rhino rays in Bangladesh has been a common practice for decades. All of the nearshore shallow waters in Bangladesh happen to be utilised by a fleet of vessels deploying an array of unselected gears. Artisanal fisheries, therefore, exert significant pressure on rhino ray populations because they try to meet up with the increasing requirements from the meat and fin industries in Asian markets and some other countries. What is a lot more interesting is these pressures happen to be exacerbated by the local belief (clearly untrue) that sawfish meats cures cancer.

Rhino rays have already been a way to obtain marine protein for coastal communities because the Bronze Era. The many valued rhino ray product is the fin, marketed at high prices internationally. As opposed to other countries mixed up in fin trade (such as Indonesia, Malaysia and China, to name a few), almost every the main rhino ray comes in Bangladesh. Fresh meats and dried meat, fins, intestines, skin and bones will be exported to China and Hong Kong and offered internally to local indigenous communities. Many of these products conclude in south-eastern Bangladesh, from where investors export them to Myanmar. Customs checks aren't conducted in this original route, which explains why monitoring is limited.

The scenario mentioned previously is frustrated by continuous habitat damage and degradation in the nearshore soft-bottom habitats preferred by these species. Comparable degradation features been reported in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans because of shrimp aquaculture, raising salinity, illegal fish poisoning, and intensive and unregulated angling. Therefore, high fishing pressures and habitat degradation possess emerged as an alarming combination barring the recovery of rhino rays. Unless we mitigate angling pressures and trade, expecting a recovery of these species is certainly impracticable. The steep decline of different rhino ray species in Bangladesh is normally evident. In our analysis sites, one fisher brought up, "Even eight to nine years back during the fishing time, there used to end up being frequent landings of Fullaissha (native name of 1 species of wedgefish)-at least 2-3 every day. But I have not really seen or found one since 2009."

Rhino rays comprise a complex socioeconomic component found in global and Bangladeshi fisheries. They are not just commercially significant; in addition they donate to the protein consumption of indigenous and additional coastal communities. In light of the depletion of various other marine species because of over-exploitation, rhino rays have become highly attractive alternatives. The harsh reality is that the demand for these proteins is only going to increase in the coming years because of a continual increase in fisheries, specifically in developing countries.

Millions of small-scale fishers in Bangladesh are highly reliant on marine solutions for food secureness and micro-nutrition. By 2050, we anticipate our planet will need to provide satisfactory and nutritious meals for approximately 10 billion persons, which suggests the necessity for continued growth of global fisheries to keep or improve individual well-being. Yet, fish stocks and marine ecosystems previously deal with depletion under current degrees of angling pressure. Bangladesh is normally no several, and the political interest is high to generate more earnings from the marine fisheries sector. While economic gains are necessary, they can not be achieved in exchange for critical biodiversity damage. To market sustainable rhino ray fishery procedures that can help stabilise human population declines, we desire a holistic framework and a precautionary strategy where conservation actions are considered before species reach a critical limit. Such a unit would value data from research and promote native pioneers, collaboration and continual trials at the countrywide and regional level, guaranteeing the well-staying of both the fish and the people, which is precisely the theme for this year's Oceans Day: "Life and Livelihoods".

The fate of rhino rays in the Bay of Bengal will depend on the average person and collective efforts of all stakeholders, and ultimately, the political will of all surrounding nations.

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