The Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) is home to the highest concentration of sharks in the world, including critically endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks. It also provides crucial pupping grounds for species such as blacktip sharks. These sharks, however, are under threat. It is thought that 100 million sharks are killed globally each year. Many of these are caught either deliberately, usually for their fins, or as incidental bycatch by the fishing industry.
As part of our Endangered Sharks of Galapagos programme, we are working to protect shark nursery sites around San Cristobal island for blacktip and scalloped hammerhead sharks. By identifying key pupping sites and improving our understanding of how they are used, the project team can then work with the authorities and local fishers to protect them from fishing and tourism activities.
Earlier this year and using GCT funds, a new local Shark and Ray graduate assistant, Daniel Armijos, joined the shark nursery team. He was able to get stuck right in by joining a short field trip in early March, learning the techniques to catch and handle juvenile sharks. The team found plenty of juveniles – in one net alone they caught over 20 baby scalloped hammerheads! Daniel was also able to familiarise himself with flying a drone and helped to deploy drop cameras and BRUVs.
Using these techniques, he then had the opportunity to undertake surveys of eight locations around San Cristobal using drones and drop cameras, looking for new nursery sites.
Having Daniel on the team means that they can push ahead with more BRUVs surveys over the next few months.
Here are some of the highlights from the trip: