Nature Trust – FEE Malta and Sharklab Malta have joined forces in order to lobby with the national authorities to declare species such as the Bull ray full protection similar to other elasmobranch species in Malta.
Following an international conservation project, the results show that the Bull ray population is on the fast lane of a population decline. As with many other species in the Mediterranean it risks becoming extinct. It is currently listed as data deficient on the IUCN Red List which means it is so rare for people to see that there is no data on it. The two NGOs appeal to the Environment authorities to take action to legally protect this species.
Bull rays have a a diamond shaped outline and resemble the Eagle ray but have blue stripes across their back. They fly through the water, skimming the bottom, moving their wings like a bird..
Sharklab recorded the first sighting of a Bull ray (Aetomylaeus bovinus) in Maltese waters less than 10 years ago and is a founder of FLY WITH BULL RAYS an international research project. Very little is known about Bull rays but this project is identifying and cataloguing Bull ray sightings in Malta, the Azores, Canary Islands, South Africa, Portugal with more countries joining the project each year. The project identifies individuals using the blue striped markings on their dorsal surface.
In a joint statement Nature Trust and Sharklab said that they “believe that Malta is a nursery area for Bull rays as juveniles have been seen here, in many of the sandy bays around the island. They are vulnerable as they live in relatively shallow waters 1-30 metres and they are slow moving.”
This project is funded by National Geographic and the Oceanario de Lisboa, and is seeking to gain sufficient data to enable lobbying for international protection for this endangered species.
Only last week members of Sharklab-Malta noted a diver with a harpoon killing a Bull ray in Mellieha Bay beneath the Hotel area. The person reacted indifferently when members of the NGO approached him to bring up the conservation problems this animal faces.
Some years ago Malta was one of the first countries to get various shark species protected. This earned Malta a lot of respect from International NGOs such as WWF of which Nature Trust is a privileged partner and represents Malta.
Nature Trust FEE Malta and Sharklab-Malta appeal to the Environment and Fisheries authorities to be proactive as this could help save the species and also help diving tourism in the Maltese Islands.