Mediterranean Guitarfishes

Addressing fisheries pressure and market demand


The Shark Trust is collaborating with researchers across North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean to develop support tools for guitarfish conservation. 

Did you know?

  • Giant guitarfishes are the world’s most threatened marine fishes. Knocking sawfish off the top spot and relegating angel sharks to 3rd place!
  • Giant guitarfishes, wedgefishes and guitarfishes are shark-like rays.
  • All but one of the 16 giant guitarfishes and wedgefishes are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
  • Their fins are among the most valuable in the global shark fin trade.
  • Fisheries disproportionately impact these species, given their low reproductive rates.
  • Coastal fisheries that catch them are poorly monitored, largely unregulated, and increasingly intense.


The Critically Endangered Giant Guitarfish is native to the Mediterranean. Also found here are the Endangered Common Guitarfish. Shark conservation in the Mediterranean is complicated for many reasons. There’s been a massive decline in the variety and number of sharks and rays. And it comes as no surprise that destructive fishing is the key threat. Small fishing boats are deeply rooted in the fabric of the Mediterranean. With over 77,000 small boats supplying local markets across the region. Reaching these boats and markets is a key conservation challenge.


Since 2012, 24 sharks and rays, including the 2 guitarfishes, have been protected in the Mediterranean through regional agreements. But legislation is poorly implemented with many countries yet to adopt and enforce the rules. The Giant Guitarfishes were also listed, along with the 15 other giant guitarfishes and wedgefishes, on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in 2019.


What are we doing?

With support from the Save Our Seas Foundation and Dashlight Foundation, and partners in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Israel and Cyprus, we’ll have many eyes on the ground. As a team, we’ll benefit from researchers visiting fish markets and landing sites across the region. And talking with fishers and enforcement officers to increase the profile of guitarfishes and their plight. Fish markets and landing sites are a valuable resource when trying to get a handle on the species caught and traded in a local area. Many sightings of the rarest species have been made on markets. While disappointing to see rare species dead, this may be the only indicator of their presence in local waters. Not only will we have eyes out for guitarfishes, but also for the 3 species of Critically Endangered angel sharks found in the Mediterranean, and other species of interest. Genetic material will also be collected to help a global study of guitarfish distribution.


Guitarfish ID and Meat Guide

Do you want to get involved?

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or please contact [email protected]


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Blowfish on Guitarfish

Banner image: © Donovan Lewis