Guitarfish project

The blackchin guitarfish, Glaucostegus cemiculus, is a critically endangered species (IUCN red list) inhabiting coastal and continental shelf waters from northern Portugal in the Atlantic to the coastal areas of Angola in the south including the Mediterranean Sea. Based on trawling surveys this medium-sized shark-like ray has largely disappeared from the northern Mediterranean Sea, however, the eastern, and parts of the southern Mediterranean, seem to form the core part of the species distribution. The ‘white’ fins of shark-like rays (including sawfishes, wedgefishes, and giant guitarfishes) are considered the best quality fins for human consumption and are among the highest valued in the international shark fin trade.

Given that juvenile blackchin guitarfish individuals frequently become stranded within the intertidal zone along the Israeli coastline, the Morris Kahn Marine Research Station initiated a long-term monitoring initiative in 2017. This effort aimed to delineate the species’ presence, abundance, and fundamental habitat utilization patterns, and is being continued until today.

With support from the Blue Marine Foundation, a collaboration with MER Research Institute in Cyprus started in 2023. A research expedition in Cyprus led by members of the apex marine predators lab of the Morris Kahn Marine Research Station set the stage for long-term bilateral research, poised to yield meaningful outcomes that bolster conservation efforts and protective measures for this species in both nations.


Our current primary objectives from this work include reinforcing the identification of crucial seasonal habitats for blackchin guitarfish in Israel and delineating spatial and temporal ‘hotspots’ of juvenile guitarfish distribution in Cyprus. Our research team plans to explore local connectivity through population genetic analyses and delve into genetic diversity and the phylogeographic origin of the blackchin guitarfish. Leveraging the expertise of the Morris Kahn Marine Research Station in comparative population biology, our investigations could offer initial insights into population status and health, encompassing assessments of biochemistry, contamination, and the guitarfish microbiome.

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For more information and assistance on this data, please contact:

Eynav Cohen


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Data from the Morris Kahn marine Research Station: