Endangered Rays of Galapagos

Project background

The Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) offers important refuge and habitats for at least 50 species of sharks and rays, including mangrove lagoons that appear to shelter multiple juvenile species. Many elasmobranchs (sharks, rays and skates) found in coastal Galapagos are data deficient, especially rays, meaning their population status and conservation needs are poorly understood. The GMR is a tourism hotspot and subject to unsustainable fishing practices, creating further challenges for effective elasmobranch conservation by the Galapagos National Park. Artisanal fishers also frequent little-studied nursery sites to catch mullet baitfish, sometimes resulting in bycatch and mortality of young sharks and rays. Learn more about the endangered rays of Galapagos

Spotted eagle rays in the Galapagos Marine Reserve © Alice Bartlett

This project will focus on understanding ray abundance and confirming the species present, as well as gathering information on their genetic diversity and connectivity to other populations to understand which are most vulnerable. This work has very strong links with our Endangered Sharks of Galapagos programme, specifically the research we have supported at nursery sites for Critically Endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini) and Near Threatened blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus). During our fieldwork, it became increasingly apparent that juvenile sharks were sharing sheltered mangrove lagoons with juvenile rays. Our project lead, Dr Diana Pazmiño, began collecting tissue samples from several ray species and plans to compare them to samples at sites around Isabela island. Drones survey methods used around San Cristobal will also be replicated on Isabela to assess ray abundance.

Manta ray in the Galapagos Marine Reserve © Alice Bartlett

How this project will help endangered rays of Galapagos

By confirming the species present, as well as improving our understanding of their genetic diversity, population structure and connectivity between islands and/or regions, we will be able to recommend effective management strategies and support future IUCN Red List species assessments or revisions. Data from our fieldwork will help define nursery areas and identify any areas of low genetic diversity that need greater protection.

To find out more about the project, please visit our blog for project updates.

How can you help?

Please help us conserve the endangered rays of Galapagos today by donating to our work, adopting an Endangered Galapagos species or becoming a GCT member.

This project is supported by: