Research Establishes a Critical Foundation for Future Conservation Efforts of Coastal Rays in Fiji

Dr Kerstin Glaus conducting interviews/survey on rays with fisherfolk in Nadolodolo Setllement, Tavua, Fiji.

Suva, Fiji – [2 July, 2024]: Groundbreaking research conducted year-round in 2022 in Fiji, established a critical foundation for future conservation efforts to safeguard Fiji’s coastal rays. The paper titled Characteristics of Fiji’s small-scale ray fishery and its relevance to food security published in Marine Policy, focused on market surveys while also interviewing coastal fishers to characterize the fishery and understand the importance of rays to food security for coastal communities.

The research was conducted by the USP component of the Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) programme funded by the European Union and the Government of Sweden.

“Rays have been underrepresented in scientific research, yet they are vital for the coastal marine ecosystems,” said Dr Kerstin Glaus, Research Fellow and lead author of this study. “Our study provides a critical foundation for future conservation efforts.”

At Suva’s fishmarket, five coastal ray species were sold: Maskray (Neotrygon sp.), spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus ocellatus), pink whipray (Pateobatis fai), Oceania fantail ray (Taeniura lessoni), and porcupine ray (Urogymnus asperrimus). All rays were captured with gillnets and mostly within or near estuaries. Overall, interviewed fishers stated, that rays are of moderate importance to food security, yet particularly relevant when finfishes are scarce.

“Given the life histories and global declines of many ray species, enhancing compliance with existing regulations, such as the nearshore gillnet ban, is crucial to safeguard these species in Fiji,” said Lavenie Tawake, USP PEUMP Team Leader. “The findings of this research highlight the need to incorporate rays into coastal fishery management plans, and that any formal national strategy for the conservation of rays should actively involve fishing communities.”

This is particularly relevant as regulations on finfish and rays can have a reciprocal effect on each other. The study further emphasizes the need for fishery’s sustainability assessments, time-series catch data, resolved ray taxonomy and size at maturity estimates.

USP is one of four key implementing partners of the PEUMP Programme, a EUR 45million program which promotes sustainable management and sound ocean governance for food security and economic growth while addressing climate change resilience and conservation of marine biodiversity. It follows a comprehensive approach, integrating issues related to ocean fisheries, coastal fisheries, community development, marine conservation and capacity building under one single regional action. The USP PEUMP programme is housed within the Institute of Marine Resources within the School of Agriculture, Geography, Environment, Ocean and Natural Sciences (SAGEONS).

To access the journal: Characteristics of Fiji’s small-scale ray fishery and its relevance to food security – ScienceDirect


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