The Giant Guitarfish (Rhynchobatus djiddensis) is a large inshore wedgefish (reaching 300 cm), which occupies the continental shelf to 70 m (generally shallower than 35 m). It is found in the Western Indian Ocean from the Red Sea to the Eastern Cape in South Africa. However, relatively little information is available on this species across its range. This large benthopelagic shark-like batoid feeds mostly on crabs, bivalve molluscs and small fish. It reproduces by aplacental viviparity and is characterized by a low fecundity, bearing four pups per litter. Initial tagging data indicate that the species has also a very slow growth rate. Due to its physical similarity and overlapping distribution with other wedgefish, it is often confused with Rhynchobatus laevis throughout its range, and with R. australiae in Australian waters. However, very little is known about both the Giant Guitarfish and its “look-alike” rhynchobatid species, and further research into the species taxonomy, population and range, biology and ecology is needed.
The rhynchobatids, including the Giant Guitarfish, are among the most threatened families of chondrichthyans due to their restricted coastal habitat, slow life history traits, susceptibility to capture in various gear types, and always-increasing demand. The biggest threat for the Giant Guitarfish is fishing as the species is taken by a number of artisanal and commercial fisheries throughout its range both as a target and as bycatch. It is distributed in the areas of high fishing intensity and it is susceptible to multiple gear types, such as gill nets, trawl nets and hooks. Furthermore, due to the large size, together with its sympatric species (R. laevis and R. australiae) it is a target of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities (IUU), amongst which finning is widespread. Moreover, due to its coastal shallow habitat, the Giant Guitarfish is likely susceptible to habitat modifications from coastal development to pollution to climate change impacts.
Due to severe, continued declines in their populations around the world, Rhynchobatus djiddensis is listed by the IUCN on its Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable to extinction globally. In 2018, together with its "look-alike" species (R. laevis and R. australiae), it is listed on the CMS global Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks Sharks MOU Annex 1.
|Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Kuwait, Mozambique, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Yemen
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|Giant Guitarfish, Whitespotted Wedgefish