I’ve been fascinated by the ocean and its vast mysteries from a very young age. Although I grew up in an Indian city that’s far away from the coast, I always looked for any excuses to be by the sea and explore its secrets. Combining this with an inclination for science and a passion for nature and wildlife, I decided to pursue a career in marine biology.
Soon after my masters, an internship on fisheries in the west coast of India exposed me to the real world of conservation. I realised that it’s not just about saving marine organisms but also about the lives of coastal communities interacting with and dependent upon the ocean. My interests then expanded to understanding some of these multidimensional problems and their solutions. While it can be challenging work, I do get to spend a lot of time in some beautiful areas of India’s coastline!
I’m interested in using interdisciplinary approaches to understand how conservation of highly threatened species like sharks and rays can be achieved in a developing nation like India where millions of people depend on the ocean for their food and livelihoods.
Elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) are a highly threatened and commercially important group of fish. Overexploitation, combined with vulnerable life history characteristics, has driven over one-third of elasmobranch species to the risk of extinction, particularly in countries of the Global South like India and Indonesia that fish them the most. High dependence on fisheries in these countries, along with multispecies fisheries and complex socio-economic contexts, emphasize the need for sustainable elasmobranch fishing rather than traditional conservation measures such as species bans and protected areas.
In India, high diversity of elasmobranch species are captured in multi-gear fisheries, and can range from being highly valuable and sought out to undesirable incidental catch. These nuances are often neglected, leading to oversimplification of policies and one-size-fits-all approaches. Moreover, elasmobranch fisheries and trade are complex social ecological systems, composed of multiple actors, with different motivations, and various market dynamics that are driving their harvest – which are poorly understood.
My PhD aims to understand how elasmobranch fisheries can move towards sustainability, particularly in the context of complex coastal fisheries in a developing country like India. I am using interdisciplinary approaches to look at elasmobranch fisheries across a range of contexts, from high value (e.g. blacktip sharks) to low-value species (e.g. guitarfish), and from fishers to traders and consumers. My primary study site is Goa, on the west coast of India. I hope to understand how conservation and livelihood objectives be aligned for improved sustainability.
Papers and reports:
Gilman, E., Hall, M., Booth, H., Gupta, T., Chaloupka, M., Fennell, H., ... & Milner-Gulland, E. J. (2022). A decision support tool for integrated fisheries bycatch management. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, 1-32.
C Rao, S Dsouza, T Gupta, M Manoharakrishnan, AS Lobo. (2021). Fisheries induced shift in sea snake community assemblages along the Konkan coast, India. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 31 (9), 2402-2411
Gupta, T., Booth, H., Arlidge, W., Rao, C., Manoharakrishnan, M., Namboothri, N., Shanker, K. and Milner-Gulland, E. 2020. Mitigation of elasmobranch bycatch in trawlers: A case study in Indian fisheries. Frontiers in Marine Science.
Gupta, T., Manuel, M., Muralidharan, M., Namboothri, N., Shanker, K. (2019). Conservation and livelihood Implications of trawler bycatch: towards improved management. Journal of Governance, 18, 55-63.
Entangled. Sanctuary Asia, April 2022
From Predators to Prey: The Disappearance of Sharks From Indian Waters. The Bastion, August 2020.
Building a Conservation Hub of Optimists. Nature in Focus, April 2020.
Treasure or Trash? When Unwanted Fish Sustain Livelihoods. RoundGlass Sustain, February 2020.
Posters (where, when and pdfs)
Presented at SCCS – Bangalore, 2018
Using local knowledge for rhino ray conservation.
SCCS Conference, Cambridge. March 2022
Mitigation of Shark and Ray Bycatch in Indian Fisheries.
ICCB Conference. December 2021