Surveying biodiversity is a very expensive and time consuming work particularly in the marine environment. This is why we have to find practical and efficient solutions to identify the species and their habitats in order to proceed with management and conservation plans. Very little information is available for marine snakes' biodiversity in the Gulf region, but particularly for Qatar where no biodiversity studies have been conducted to date. We have explored the presence of marine snakes in Qatar based on public information obtained from interviews done to people living in Qatar. We have interviewed 655 persons during January to May 2013 in different zones and ports of the State of Qatar, and from different countries, social sector, age and period of time living in Qatar. Most interviewed people were adults originally from 36 different countries; however, the majority was from India, Qatar and Nepal. Most of them were based in Qatar for only 1-2 years, while the rest were living in Qatar from few months to all their life. Only 16% of the persons interviewed (n= 102) have seen snakes in Qatar. Some snakes were observed near the Qatar coast and ports but most of them were seen offshore (89% of the observations). We have explored the potential diversity of marine snakes present in Qatar by showing to the interviewed persons a form with photos of 10 different species that have been reported to exist in Qatar. Most people have seen only one snake species, while two different species were seen by 25 persons and 3 species by 15 persons. The maximum number of marine snakes seen by the people has been four, and only 2% of the persons saw them. The snakes more frequently seen have been Lapemis curtus (18% of the observations), Leioselasma cyanocincta (13%) and Leioselasma spiralis (12%). In this study we have also examined if the probability to see a marine snake by the people is related to different variables, including the social sector (fisherman, sport clubs, general public), the study area (8 zones), the number of years living in Qatar, the age of the person (adult or young) and their nationality. The results have shown that most observations of sea snakes have been conducted offshore at traditional fishing areas around islands, while coastal records are limited to mangroves, ports and marinas. Most observations have been conducted by fisherman from India, by Qatari citizens working at the university and the Ministry of the Environment and by experts working in the environmental departments linked to petrol companies in Qatar. This abstract is a contribution for the Qatar Foundation Annual Research Conference (QF-ARC-2013).


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