This guide, which was kindly funded with voluntary contributions from the German government and and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), was co-authored by Rima W. Jabada and David A. Ebert. It provides identification keys to 68 species of sharks encountered in the Arabian Seas region, and an additional 14 species of sharks and batoids. These include all shark species whose trade or conservation status is regulated through international instruments as well as the ray and sawfish species known to occur in the region. The guide briefly presents some background information on sharks, the Arabian Seas region, and the international instruments that guide their conservation. This section is then followed by information on what to do in the case of rare or unidentifiable species, an illustration of the physical characteristics of a shark, a list of technical terms used in this guide, and a branching key to assist with the identification of Orders before the species descriptions are provided. This guide emphasizes external morphological characteristics that are particularly important to distinguish between various shark species during field studies. The use of unnecessary scientific terminology has been avoided.
In order to develop effective fisheries management plans, improve statistical data utilized in countries, and ensure the long-term sustainable use of elasmobranchs, the correct identification of species entering national catches is essential. The taxonomic status of many elasmobranch species in the Arabian Seas region is still unclear and many species are difficult to identify due to similar body shape, color and overlapping distributions. Scientific information on rays and guitarfishes is still inadequate for a comprehensive guide to be developed. However, with recent studies on sharks, there is now enough knowledge of species diversity and distribution to compile these data. Considering the diversity of shark species in the Arabian Seas region and the difficulties in distinguishing between similar species, a field guide is essential to support and assist fisheries scientists and researchers with shark identification. While many shark guides exist around the world and even the broader Indian Ocean, recent work by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Gulf Elasmo Project in the Arabian Seas region has identified a gap in the availability of a comprehensive English and Arabic guide with up to date information focused on species occurring in this region. This identification guide is designed to address this gap. It is unique in that it addresses only species confirmed from the Arabian Seas region and aims to assist field biologists, researchers, fisheries enumerators, commercial and recreational fishermen, divers and the interested public to rapidly and accurately identify sharks encountered whilst at sea, at landing sites or domestic fish markets in the region.