DNA Barcode Reveals the Bycatch of Endangered Batoids Species in the Southwest Atlantic: Implications for Sustainable Fisheries Management and Conservation Efforts
Today, elasmobranchs are one the most threatened vertebrate groups worldwide. In fact, at least 90% of elasmobranch species are listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, while more than 40% are data-deficient. Although these vertebrates are mainly affected by unsustainable fishery activities, bycatch is also one of the major threats to sharks and batoids worldwide, and represents a challenge for both sustainable fishery management and for biodiversity and conservational efforts. Thus, in this study, DNA barcode methodology was used to identify the bycatch composition of batoid species from small-scale industrial fisheries in the southwest Atlantic and artisanal fisheries from southeast Brazil. A total of 228 individuals belonging to four Chondrichthyes orders, seven families, and at least 17 distinct batoid species were sequenced; among these individuals, 131 belonged to species protected in Brazil, 101 to globally threatened species, and some to species with trade restrictions provided by Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). These results highlight the impacts on marine biodiversity of bycatch by small-scale industrial and unmanaged artisanal fisheries from the southwest Atlantic, and support the implementation of DNA-based methodologies for species-specific identification in data-poor fisheries as a powerful tool for improving the quality of fisheries’ catch statistics and for keeping precise bycatch records.