Did you know that the Southern African
coastline has the 4th highest number of
sharks, rays, skates and chimaeras
in the world?
The Southern African coastline is known for its outstanding diversity in marine wildlife.
204 out of 1188 known chondrichthyans (sharks, rays, skates & chimaeras) occur here,
making it the 4th most diverse hotspot for these species.
Unfortunately, about 30% of these
species are at risk for extinction
Although awareness around the conservation of elasmobranchs (particularly sharks) is rising,
smaller sharks and rays are often in the shadow of larger charismatic species.
Several species of catsharks, rays and skates - many of which are endemic to Southern
Africa - make up a large portion of the bycatch in South African commercial fisheries.
Many elasmobranchs are also targeted directly for products like shark cartilage, liver oil,
leather, teeth, jaws as well as ray wings and shark fins.
That's why we need your help!
Monitoring elasmobranch populations can be difficult and costly. There are, however, a number
of people who encounter sharks, rays and skates on a regular basis: anglers, divers, snorkellers,
skippers, and beach visitors. If that's you, you can help us collect two different types of data:
1) EGGCASE FINDS
Some sharks and all skates lay leathery eggcases either directly into the sand or they
attach them to tough underwater surfaces such as rocks, corals or kelp. Storms, currents
or predators can loosen these eggcases and wash them ashore, where beach visitors
can find them. These mermaids' purses have characteristic shapes that differ in
each species. Finding these eggcases help us determine both the relative abundance
and where and when these species occur along our coastline.
2) ANIMAL SIGHTINGS
People who spend time in or close to the water regularly encounter sharks, skates or rays.
These direct observations can help with the identification of species-distributions and
important habitats. Sightings do not always have to be recorded first-hand, but can be
extracted from photographs or news articles. Historic photographs are of specifically high
value as they can be an indication of changes in size and abundance of species.
ELMO serves as an interactive database that can be accessed and utilised by everyone. All data is carefully stored and can be obtained directly from us for projects that promote elasmobranch conservation and awareness campaigns. We are working closely together with other citizen science projects and data bases to make sure your contributions reach out as far as possible.
We also provide a number of resources, which can be used privately or for educational purposes. Please feel free to download our Eggcase ID guide or visit our Resources page to access more information material on South African elasmobranchs.