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Threatened shark and ray species at the crossroads

On Shark Awareness Day, we put the spotlight on a ray species - the Lusitanian cownose ray - that still lacks any regional management and protection measures and is globally critically endangered.

While recent efforts represent a significant step towards a better management and conservation framework of some shark and ray species, it’s important to recall that more than half of the 80 shark and ray species living in the Mediterranean are still threatened and a third critically endangered. 

A rare ray
The Lusitianian cownose ray is extremely rare but is reported along the Turkish coasts and other Mediterranean countries like Albania, Croatia, France, Greece Italy, Montenegro, and Spain. It grows up to 2m wide and is among the most vulnerable shark and ray species, giving birth to only one single pup every other year. It lives close to shore in rather shallow water (30 m and sometimes up to 100m) and aggregates in large schools which can lead to many individuals caught in one single event

Threatening fisheries
While there is little commercial importance for human consumption in the Mediterranean region, fishing, often unmanaged, is the main threat for the survival of this species, which is caught by multiple gear types and is particularly vulnerable to coastal fisheries using purse seine, gillnet and trammel nets and above all by bottom trawlers. 

How we can protect it 
There is an urgent need to regionally protect Lusitanian cownose ray and other Mediterranean species like the critically endangered Bullray Aetomylaeus bovinus and the endangered Common eagle ray Myliobatis aquila. All countries should provide the adequate capacity to implement the existing legislation and commitments to improve the management of fisheries that catch these species as bycatch, if we do not want to lose these Mediterranean treasures forever.
© Ran Golan
Rare shark and ray species of the Mediterranean