Conservationists have discovered an important haven for one of Dorset’s most endangered marine animals in Swanage and Studland bays. A survey this year identified the area as showing all the signs of being a nursery ground for undulate rays, one of the prettiest and smallest of our British skates and rays. Sporting a pattern of delicate wavy lines surrounded by pale dots, the undulate ray is listed as endangered, with commercial fishing of the species banned since 2009. Now conservationists are hoping that new legislation will succeed in protecting their future.
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New law brings hope
The Marine & Coastal Access Act 2009 requires the setting up of a network of ‘marine reserves’ around the country by 2012 and conservationists are seeking sites that are important as refuges where beleaguered marine species can recover and thrive. It is hoped that this likely nursery for undulate rays in Swanage and Studland Bays will benefit from becoming part of a future marine reserve.
The volunteer-led survey involved collecting mermaid’s purses, the empty egg cases of skates and rays, from local beaches and requesting sightings by divers. Studland and Swanage stood out as hotspots for both undulate ray egg cases and juvenile sightings. Dorset Wildlife Trust Marine Awareness Officer, Julie Hatcher, said: “It is exciting to discover that the Studland/Swanage area is so important for this lovely animal, along with all the other amazing marine life there. Now, thanks to the volunteers and divers who collected the information and photographs, there is evidence to get the site protected. We hope that everyone will support moves to protect the nursery area at Studland and Swanage through new marine Special Areas of Conservation and Marine Conservation Zones.“
How you can help undulate rays
Dorset Wildlife Trust has advice for anyone who wants to help this endangered species:
- Avoid eating skate/ray unless you are sure it is not undulate ray. Visit www.fishonline.org for more information.
- Anglers should release undulate rays unharmed if caught and in as healthy a condition as possible follow the Recycle Fish code of conduct www.recyclefish.com
- Report sightings/catches to Dorset Wildlife Trust, preferably with a photo to confirm ID, as well as date and location- 01929 481044 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Join the Great Eggcase Hunt to record skate eggcases around the coast and help identify skate nursery areas www.eggcase.org.
Notes to Editor
For more information please contact Julie Hatcher at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01929 481044.
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About Dorset Wildlife Trust www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk
Dorset Wildlife Trust was founded in 1961 to protect the wildlife and natural habitats of the county and now has over 25,000 members and manages over 40 nature reserves. Most are open daily and there are visitor centres providing a wealth of wildlife information at Brooklands Farm, Lorton Meadows, Kingcombe Meadows and Brownsea Island Nature Reserves, The Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and the Urban Wildlife Centre at Upton Heath Nature Reserve.
The largest voluntary nature conservation organisation in Dorset, DWT plays a key role in dealing with local environmental issues. It leads the way in establishing the practices of sustainable development and engaging new audiences in conservation, particularly in the urban areas.
This is one of the prettiest in British waters, a type of skate which lays eggs; it is readily distinguished from other rays by its yellowy-brown colouring, with wavy bands bordered by rows of white spots. Undulate rays grow up to 100cm from nose to tail and are one of the smallest rays. They feed on crustaceans and can be found at depths of between 10 and 30 metres on sandy and soft mud seabeds along the south coast of England and west coast of Ireland, and further south in the Mediterranean Sea.