Acoustic Telemetry for Critically Endangered Guitarfish Species

1 year (July 2022 – July 2023)

Environmental Organisation for the Preservation of the Aquatic Ecosystems, iSea

Funded by:
Blue Marine Foundation 

The Defense Infrastructure Organisation of the SBAs
The Ocean Tracking Network with the support of InnovaSea Systems

Project Description:
Cyprus is a potential critical area for two threatened species of guitarfish; the blackchin guitarfish (Glaucostegus cemiculus) and the common guitarfish (Rhinobatos rhinobatos). According to local knowledge and citizen science data, they are commonly captured as bycatch in recreational fishing such as rod surfcasting. Unfortunately, there is lack of awareness among stakeholders and especially fishers about guitarfish, its importance, and the threats that they face globally. This project aimed to advance our knowledge of these critically endangered species, specifically within Cypriot waters. To do this, we tagged individuals at different life stages with acoustic transmitters (Vemco V9-2x-BLU-1 and V13-1x-BLU-1). In collaboration with local fishers, fish were caught using the beach casting technique. External spaghetti ID tags were being inserted on guitarfish caught, especially important for recently born juveniles which were too small for internal tagging. Eighteen acoustic receivers (Vemco VR2Tx-69 kHz) were set up to track the guitarfishes’ movements. This was the first acoustic telemetry network in Cyprus. An additional goal of the project was to determine the long range connectivity of other tagging operations elsewhere in the Mediterranean (e.g. Israel) as our receivers can also detect their tagged specimens.

This network will help demonstrate that the selected locations are critical areas and potential nursery grounds for guitarfish in Cyprus. Our project developed a deeper understanding about guitarfish ecology, migrations and spatiotemporal movements within the study area. This provided the necessary actionable knowledge to spearhead future research into these species with the end goal of protecting their remaining populations within Cypriot waters.

The tagging procedure was conducted according to the DIRECTIVE 2010/63/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 22 September 2010 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, and REGULATION (EU) 2019/1010 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 5 June 2019.