The Southern African coastline is known for its outstanding diversity in marine wildlife. 204 out of 1188 known Chondrichthyans (sharks, rays, skates & chimaera) occur in Southern Africa, making it the 4th most diverse hotspot for these species.
Although the conservation of Elasmobranchs is gaining rising public concern, smaller sharks and rays are often in the shadow of widely 'adulated' charismatic sharks. 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.
Monitoring Elasmobranch populations can be difficult and costly. There are however, a number of people, who encounter sharks, skates and rays on a regular basis: Anglers, divers, snorkellers, skippers, the occasional beach visitor and basically anyone, who reads the news or surfs the internet. And they can deliver two different types of data:
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. These mermaids' purses have characteristic shapes that differ in each species and their abundance and distributions can be used for long-term monitorings.
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 utilized by everyone. All data is illustrated in an interactive map that can be used to explore our Elasmobranch populations. Furthermore we administer the original information in datasheets, which 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.
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