The White-spotted Wedgefish (Rhynchobatus australiae) inhabits inshore waters on the continental shelves, specifically enclosed bays, estuaries, and also coral reefs. It is found in South-East Asia and Australia, ranging from Thailand, Taiwan Province of China, Philippines, and Indonesia to the Australian sub-tropics. It is a large benthopelagic shark-like batoid that is differentiated from other wedgefish species by its bottle-shaped snout. Moreover, it is highly mobile, but it rarely occurs deeper than 60 m. Due to the lack of data, neither its migratory behaviours (e.g. use of inshore and offshore habitats, especially at different life stages) nor the role it plays in ecosystem is well understood.
The White-spotted Wedgefish is among the most threatened families of chondrichthyans, and the species is especially vulnerable because the species is distributed throughout areas of high fishing intensity, susceptible to multiple gear types, large size, and is the most highly-priced in international fin trade. However, the species is not listed under the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Before 2017, there were no international protection measures in place for the White-spotted Wedgefish.
As a result of intensive fishing pressure that is likely to continue in the future, a recent assessment of the conservation status elasmobranches in the Arabian Sea and adjacent waters indicates that the White-spotted Wedgefish (along with two sympatric species (R. djiddensis and R. laevis) has suffered significant population declines estimated between 50 and 80 per cent over the last three decades and is considered endangered. Due to population depletions, the White-spotted Wedgefish is classified by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable globally.
It is clear that coordinated and comprehensive management and conservation measures are urgently needed to prevent further population declines and localized extinctions throughout the range of the White-spotted Wedgefish. In 2017, the species is listed in Appendix II of CMS, which is expected to provide additional support for introducing collaborative management of this species by Range States, through CMS itself and through possible inclusion of the species on the CMS global Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks.