Fisheries and sea snakes

Chetan Rao, Shawn Dsouza, Muralidharan M, Kartik Shanker, Naveen Namboothri


Sea snakes are diverse and unique reptiles adapted to marine habitats. They are widespread and are found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. There are around 70 species of true sea snakes (Family: Hydrophidae) found in the Indian and Pacific Ocean. Globally, bycatch remains the biggest threat to marine snakes and over 100,000 thousand sea snakes are harvested each year. We studied the biology of sea snakes that live in a human-dominated seascape and find how fishing affects sea snake assemblages. Our goals with the projects are to characterize long-term trends in abundance, diversity, and mortality of sea snakes and gain a better understanding of how fisheries interact with their ecology, physiology, and life history.


Trawling proved to be detrimental to survivorship of sea snakes and Shaw sea snakes seemed to have declined due to high mortality in fishing gear. Beaked sea snakes and short sea snakes occupy distinct habitats and trophic niches. They exclusively feed on fish and their prey are targeted by fisheries as well. Shaw sea snakes use habitats that are used by fishing boats, particularly trawlers, and are at greater risk.

For further reading, please refer to the full technical reports:

Impacts of fishing on sea snakes.  

Does fishing pressure affect the feeding ecology of sea snakes?


We have produced outreach materials such as posters and a field guide to the sea snakes of Sindhudurg. Our work has featured in articles in national and local print and online media (Hornbill, The Wire, Tarun Bharat, Hindustan Times, Mongabay- India, DNA)

  1. Dsouza, S. 2020. Locked Down In a Fishing Town. The Bastion.
  2. Creasey, M. and Dsouza, S. 2019. Sailing into an uncertain future. Current Conservation.
  3. Dsouza, S. 2019. Scaly business: A day in the life of a sea snake ecologist. Current Conservation.
  4. Rao. C. 2018. Serpents of the sea. Hornbill.
  5. Rao. C. 2017. How life turned a full circle for snakes that call the ocean their home. The Wire.

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