Scientists from a non-profit organization (Blue Core A. C.) will soon spend a lot of time in the water taking data for the first spotted eagle ray research and conservation project in the Mexican Caribbean
Spotted eagle ray season is almost here! These magnificent creatures gather in key SCUBA diving spots such as the shipwrecks in Cancun and Puerto Morelos, as well as the reefs of Cozumel during winter. After March they are rarely seen, so scientists from a non-profit organization (Blue Core A. C.) will soon spend a lot of time in the water taking data for the first spotted eagle ray research and conservation project in the Mexican Caribbean.
Spotted eagle rays are large charismatic rays occurring in tropical and subtropical waters. They are heavily fished in many areas of their range, and they are an important tourist attraction in Quintana Roo as they gather in large numbers during winter. This species has particular characteristic that makes them quite vulnerable such as slow growth, reaching maturity at 14-28 years; they have only 1-4 pups taking almost a year to gestate; they depend on coral reefs and seagrass meadows for food, both ecosystems are in heavy danger in Quintana Roo and the Caribbean Region; and, in the Caribbean, they feed primarily on an endangered species of mollusk (queen conch).
Information is needed to manage and conserve any use of wildlife or natural resource: every year we see them here, and we do not know where they go after, or where they come from, or if the rays we get to admire in Quintana Roo may venture into fishing areas. So, scientists at Blue Core A.C. in Quintana Roo in collaboration with Mote Marine Lab from Florida and ECOSUR from Campeche (Gulf of Mexico) are using their color patterns to identify individuals through pictures taken while diving during the season and across seasons to answer these questions. With pictures gathered as far as 2003, Blue Core A.C. has created the first photo-ID library in Mexico with over 1000 pictures already processed and 282 individuals identified!
Would you like to be part of this effort? Easy! Send your good-quality pictures of spotted eagle rays with date and site to Blue Core A. C. through the Facebook page and join their research expeditions while SCUBA diving with these beautiful creatures over winter!