Order Protecting Spotted Eagle Rays Issued
On October 6th the Minister of Environment and Sports issued a protection order for Spotted Eagle Rays on the advice of the Department of Conservation Services.
Action was initiated in mid-August based on observations by Bermuda Aquarium Museum & Zoo that the Spotted Eagle Ray was increasingly being targeted by recreational fisherman.
If convicted the penalty for the first offense is $5000 fine or 6 months imprisonment and $10,000 or 6 months imprisonment for subsequent offenses.
The spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari) is most easily recognized by white spots on its black or bluish back (the ray’s main body is called the disc), and the underside is creamy or white. It swims by “flying” gracefully through the water via the undulation of the pectoral fins. In open waters, spotted eagle rays often form large schools and swim close to the surface. It is capable of leaping completely out of the water when pursued. They eat squid, sea urchins, shell fish, as well as bony fish.
The spotted eagle ray is commonly found in tropical waters like Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. It can swim long distances across open waters as evidenced by its presence in Bermuda. In Bermuda spotted eagle rays are commonly found in shallow inshore waters such as bays and coral reefs. They are commonly seen in Harrington Sound which recent research has found to be one of their main feeding grounds.
The Spotted Ray has a slow growth rate (4-6 years to reach maturity). Females only bear a maximum of four pups per litter with a gestation period of approximately 1 year. In addition to the small litter size, the schooling behaviour of these animals and natural inshore habitat expose them highly to inshore fishing and exploitation.
“Traditionally in Bermuda, the Spotted Eagle Ray has rarely been eaten because of its poor quality of flesh. Due to their slow reproductive rate over fishing could happen very quickly and easily do irreparable damage to Bermuda’s population of rays,” said Dr Samia Sarkis of Conservation Services.
The species is listed as Near Threatened on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Red List of Threatened species and vulnerable in Bermuda local waters. This species is protected in Florida State waters, Australia, South Africa and Maldives. The Bermuda Government has also recognized the vulnerability of this species and has endevoured to ensure that this species will be protected and thrive in Bermuda waters.
Minister Blakeney said: “Acting so quickly on an alarming increased level of recreational fishing for the species shows foresight by the Ministry of the Environment and Sports. The issuance of this order was made possible through the hard work and overwhelming support of all parties involved. It is an action which will be recognized by international environmental organizations, bringing a positive image of Bermuda worldwide and setting it as an example for the wider Caribbean region.”
[Thanks to Matt Ajemian for the photos. You can read more about the ecological role of Bermudian spotted eagle rays here on the BermudaBream blog]
The fifth installment of the Bermuda Zoological Society’s “Zoobilee: The Hungry Games” is set for Saturday, October 4.
Global Indemnity Re has donated to the Bermuda Zoological Society’s [BZS] ongoing effort to conserve and protect Bermuda’s marine environment, with a one-time donation to go towards the society’s Bermuda Turtle Project, BZS’ signature conservation program.
Vital efforts to conserve and protect turtles received a much-welcome boost thanks to a generous donation, the Bermuda Zoological Society (BZS) has said.
Hundreds of students have been able to explore Bermuda’s “exquisite” coral reefs thanks to generous fuel donations.
While Bermuda may be an island surrounded by some of the most exquisite coral reefs in the world, not all of Bermuda’s students have had the opportunity to go out and explore our prized marine habitats.
The Aquarium Hall is to close early next month so the roof can be replaced. Termite damage, sagging beams and water ingress are among the problems affecting the 88-year-old building.
The Aquarium Hall will close on October 5, 2014 in order to allow for roof replacement work to take place, though the North Rock Exhibit, as well as the Zoo, Museum, Azu Beastro, and the Bermuda Zoological Society [BZS] Gift Shop will remain open.
Three young Bermudians have been awarded $5,000 each to help them continue their studies.