The key objective of this project is to increase public knowledge and improve perceptions of myliobatid stingrays across our world’s oceans through research dissemination and outreach.
Targeted myliobatid stingray fisheries and kill tournaments are on the rise in several parts of the world. Unfortunately, there have been few attempts to consolidate scientific knowledge on the biology and ecology of these extremely vulnerable fishes.
Some species of stingrays have evolved the amazing ability to crush and consume hard-shelled marine critters like clams, scallops, oysters and snails. These durophagous (meaning ‘hard-eating’) stingrays can be found in subtropical to temperate waters worldwide, and they include the cownose and eagle rays. Unfortunately, because their diets occasionally include economically valuable shellfish, durophagous stingrays are often considered ‘pest’ species by fishermen. This has led to the development of uncontrolled kill tournaments for these rays and advertising campaigns to increase ray consumption (such as, ‘Save the Bay, Eat a Ray’) despite these species having some of the lowest reproductive rates among marine fishes.
At this year’s American Elasmobranch Society meeting my co-chair, Dr Julie Neer of the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, and I will bring together the leading experts on durophagous stingray biology and ecology from across the globe. Our goal is to review current and past research on these animals and use these findings to make recommendations to adequately conserve and manage durophagous stingrays. We will have a series of 20 presentations from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Japan, followed by a discussion session on moving forward with potential conservation measures. In the end, we hope to shift the negative attention associated with these species and increase awareness of the potential positive impacts of these species in marine food webs, and their potential ecotourism value.
The aims and objectives of this project are to:
In the Mediterranean, species such as guitarfishes, the spiny butterfly ray and angel sharks are all Critically Endangered or Endangered, making their conservation management vital. Ioannis is using a combination of local knowledge, BRUVs and scuba surveys to search for key aggregation areas and essential habitats for the elasmobranchs of Kos Island in the South Aegean Sea.
Not much is known about the Critically Endangered spiny butterfly ray in the Mediterranean, and even less about how tourism in this popular sea is impacting its population. Jaime is diving in to understand this species, using photos and videos to make its presence known to ocean-goers.