News News Digest - November Our selection of top shark stories, highlighting the latest news and discoveries from around the world... Behind the Science of Shark Conservation 29 November Ever wondered what goes into a global assessment of over 1,000 species of shark and ray? An astonishing amount of knowledge, expertise, and teamwork that’s what! Many will be familiar with the recent report that revealed a staggering 1/3 of all shark and ray species are now threatened with extinction. But just what does it take to gather and analyse the data needed to assess this many species, and through a pandemic? Three hundred and fifty-three experts from more than 70 countries were involved in gathering and analysing data for 1,199 species. Local experts were involved from every country and region discussed, facilitating long-term collaborations that perhaps would not have developed otherwise. The process took over five years, beginning with in person workshops and ending with online meetings. Whilst shocking, the results from this intense and comprehensive study puts sharks on the IUCN Red List Index for the first time and in front of policymakers. Leopard Shark’s Visiting California Beach in High Numbers 20 November They’re normally sighted off the coast of California between July and October. But recent drone footage has captured hundreds of Leopard Sharks swimming in the shallows of La Jolla Beach, San Diego in November. Known for forming large groups, these sharks will often head out to coastal waters during the winter months as salinity and temperature decreases. Check out the photos! Presumed Extinct Tentacled Butterfly Ray Found in Iran 11 November In 2019, a scientist collecting data for Iran’s first shark and ray conservation program made an exciting discovery amongst the scraps of a fisherman’s shrimp haul– a Tentacled Butterfly Ray. Last recorded off Pakistan in 1986, this ray was thought to have been wiped out across its range and was listed as Critically Endangered, possibly extinct, by the IUCN Red List. Scientists have since recorded 367 Tentacled Butterfly Ray’s from 96 surveys carried on shrimp hauls over the space of a year. It’s suspected southern Iran may be the last stronghold for this ray. This rediscovery provides an opportunity for scientists to study this little-known ray, and work with fishers to reduce its incidental capture before it’s really too late. Addressing Sawfish Declines in the Bay of Bengal 10 November Of the five known species of sawfish, three can be found in Bangladesh, with the Largetooth Sawfish being the most widely reported. Once considered to be abundant in the Bay of Bengal, numbers have declined drastically over the years. Now a team of scientists, conservationists and artists are working to turn the tide against sawfish loss in the region through the "Save Sawfish—the friend of the seas" campaign. It aims to raise awareness of their ecological importance through education and training of fishers, traders, and consumers. Whilst also continuing to research sawfish populations and obtain the necessary scientific data on which to base future conservation actions. Study Finds Fish Rubbing Up Against Their Predators 4 November Fish chaffing. What is it? And why on earth would a fish intentionally rub up against their predator? Whilst they’re known to rub up against inanimate objects like sand and rocks. A new study has documented the same behaviour with sharks. Scientists recorded 47 instances of fish rubbing themselves against a shark’s skin. They even spotted numerous Silky Sharks rubbing up against a Whale Shark. Whilst the Silky Sharks were in no danger of being preyed upon by the Whale Shark, many of the other encounters were between species that have predator-prey relationships. It’s thought this behaviour may play a role in removing parasites and other irritants from the fish’s skin. Galapagos Marine Reserve Expansion 4 November Ecuador have revealed plans to expand the marine reserve around the Galapagos Islands by 60,000 sq km. Announced at COP 26 Climate Change Conference, it’s hoped the expansion will make the reserve more resilient to climate change. Whilst also providing additional protection to migratory species that travel through the reserve like the Whale Shark, and species with important nursery grounds in the reserve like the Blacktip Shark and hammerhead sharks. European Elasmobranch Association Conference 2021 2-5 November This week has seen the return of the European Elasmobranch Association (EEA) Conference after a hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic. Hosted by the Dutch Elasmobranch Association (NEV) in Leiden, Netherlands, this annual event provides a great opportunity for shark scientists, conservationists, and advocates to unite. Ali Hood, Director of Conservation at the Shark Trust provided the keynote presentation on the opening day of the conference. Sharing stories and lessons learned from 20 years involved in shark and ray conservation and encouraging delegates to #MakeTime4Makos. It’s nearly over for another year but check out the highlights at the EEA Conference Twitter account.