Twenty new species of sharks and rays have been discovered in Indonesia during a five-year survey of catches at local fish markets, Australian researchers said Wednesday.
The survey by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, or CSIRO, represents the first in-depth look at Indonesia's sharks and rays since Dutch scientist Pieter Bleeker described more than 1,100 fish species from 1842-1860.
Researchers said six of their discoveries have been described in peer review journals, including the Bali Catshark and Jimbaran Shovelnose Ray, found only in Bali, and the Hortle's Whipray, found only in West Papua.
Papers on the remaining 14 are being prepared.
"Indonesia has the most diverse shark and ray fauna and the largest shark and ray fishery in the world, with reported landings of more than 100,000 tons a year," said William White, a co-author of the study. "Before this survey, however, there were vast gaps in our knowledge of sharks and rays in this region."
Based on the survey's findings, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research has published a 330-page, full-color, field guide titled: "Economically Important Sharks and Rays of Indonesia."
From 2001 to 2006, researchers photographed and sampled more than 130 species on 22 survey trips to 11 ports across Indonesia. More than 800 specimens were lodged in reference collections at the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense at Cibinong, Java, and the Australian National Fish Collection at Hobart.
The survey was part of a broader project working toward improved management of sharks and rays in Indonesia and Australia, researchers said.
"Good taxonomic information is critical to managing shark and ray species, which reproduce relatively slowly and are extremely vulnerable to overfishing," White said in a statement. "It provides the foundation for estimating population sizes, assessing the effects of fishing and developing plans for fisheries management and conservation."