As the first round of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) came into being in late 2013, English and UK offshore waters gained 27 new protected areas encompassing some 9,700 sq. km. Just one of several different types of marine protected area, MCZs are used to conserve rare or threatened habitats and species, as well as species that are representative of the biodiversity in our seas. Lack of inclusion of many highly mobile species – including sharks, skates and rays – in the first round of MCZ designations left the Shark Trust disappointed. As well as having static (or stationary) phases within their life-histories, such as egglaying, many have experienced steep declines in abundance and reduction in range which far exceeds those of other species included in the MCZ process. To address gaps within the current network a second round of MCZ designations is in the pipeline, with 37 additional sites to be assessed as potential candidates. As part of this, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has engaged the Shark Trust to gather data on the Undulate Ray, a species known to occur at two south coast candidate MCZ sites.
How to get involved
Eggcase Hunters – With over 53,000 eggcases now logged by the Great Eggcase Hunt, results already indicate a number of Undulate Ray egg-laying grounds along the Southern coast of England. However the more Undulate Ray eggcases recorded, the greater the degree of certainly we can have regarding the location and extent of these important areas.
Divers – Equally valuable are records of in-situ eggcases – those eggcases still in place on the seafloor, from which juveniles have not yet hatched. In-situ eggcases provide inconvertible evidence of critically important egg-laying grounds; similarly, in some locations divers have reported encounters with free-swimming juvenile and adult Undulate Rays.
Anglers – Undulate Rays have distinctive markings making them easily identifiable, with anglers uniquely placed to record information on abundance and distribution.
➤ Record your eggcases
➤ Record your sightings
➤ Record your catch