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Keywords:

  • batoid;
  • by-catch;
  • discards;
  • fishery;
  • gillnet;
  • shark

This paper presents data from the first major survey of the diversity, biology and fisheries of elasmobranchs in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf. Substantial landings of elasmobranchs, usually as gillnet by-catch, were recorded in Kuwait, Qatar and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (part of the United Arab Emirates), although larger elasmobranchs from targeted line fisheries were landed in Abu Dhabi. The elasmobranch fauna recorded was distinctive and included species that are undescribed, rare and have a highly restricted known distribution. Numerical abundance was dominated by sharks (c. 80%), of which carcharhinids were by far the most important. The milk shark Rhizoprionodon acutus and whitecheek shark Carcharhinus dussumieri together comprised just under half of all recorded individuals. Around 90% of recorded sharks were small (50–90 cm total length, LT) individuals, most of which were mature individuals of species with a small maximum size (<100 cm LT), although immature individuals of larger species (e.g. Carcharhinus sorrah and other Carcharhinus spp.) were also important. The most frequently recorded batoid taxa were cownose rays Rhinoptera spp., an undescribed whipray, and the granulated guitarfish Rhinobatos granulatus. The first size, sex and maturity data for a wide range of Gulf elasmobranch species are presented (including LT at 50% maturity for males of four shark species) and include some notable differences from other locations in the Indo-West Pacific Ocean. A number of concerns regarding the sustainability of the fishery were highlighted by this study, notably that most of the batoid species recorded are classed by the IUCN Red List as vulnerable, endangered, data deficient or not evaluated. Despite their considerable elasmobranch landings, none of the three countries sampled have developed a ‘Shark Plan’ as encouraged to do so under the FAO International Plan of Action: Sharks. Furthermore, Kuwait and Qatar currently report zero or no elasmobranch landings to the FAO.