Citizen science provides information for the declaration of areas of importance for sharks and rays
24/08/2023 The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has recognized the value of 14 coastal areas of the Spanish Mediterranean coast as Important Shark and Ray Area (ISRA). The data provided by citizens in Observadores del Mar have been taken into account for the establishment of these areas. ISRAs are areas where there is sufficient scientific evidence that sharks and rays congregate, feed, rest, and breed. They are, therefore, areas of special relevance for the conservation of these species. In the Mediterranean Sea, 65 important zones have been established, 14 of which are on the Spanish coast, which represents 20% of the total zones admitted. A committee made up of 180 international scientists has evaluated more than a hundred proposals given by different Mediterranean countries to reach the final decision. The information transmitted to the committee has been achieved with a broad collaboration of entities and experts. The observations provided by the Observadores del Mar community have been transmitted by the CatSharks scientific team, responsible for the Sharks and Rays project of our platform. In addition, many other entities and organizations have contributed; as IEO-CSIC, WWF, the fishing sector, Soldecocos, University of Murcia, ICM-CSIC, Submón, SharkMed and independent researchers of high level. The process is a sample of the great power of a wide collaboration. The delimited ISRAs have established Roses (Girona), the canons of the Costa Brava, the region of central Catalonia, the delta de l'Ebre i Castelló, the Marina Alta (Alacant), the Ibiza channel, l'illa de Benidorm (Alacant), from Cap de Pals (Murcia Region), the eastern coast of the Murcia Region, the Strait of Gibraltar and, in the Balearic Islands, Majorca, Menorca, Formentera, and two particular areas as El Toro - Sa Dragonera and Cala Vella (Mallorca). In addition, other areas have remained established as areas of interest or candidates for future ISRAs, when sufficient evidence has accumulated for that purpose. The declaration of ISRA zones does not imply legal protection or impose management measures, but it establishes the areas of greatest relevance for the survival of these species that must be considered by competent administrations. It is a first step for a better management and conservation of sharks and rays, a process in which citizen science provides essential information. Photos in this page: Xavi Baragona & Mako Pako.