Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I love sting rays

Sometimes while tarpon fishing, I have to keep repeating that "Sting Rays are my Friends".  

I jumped at the chance to catch some baby, "young of year" sting rays for Lyndell's research described below. 

This guy won't be harassing me next summer......

"Large population numbers of cownose rays can cause a coast-wide problem for fishermen and aquaculturists during the ray migratory season, due to the ray's reported consumption of mollusks (scallops, clams, and oysters) and crustaceans.  This ray predation may result in disturbance to the sea floor, interference with gill netting for other species, reduction of the potential for shellfish aquaculture, losses of clams in leased areas, interference with oyster restoration efforts, and loss of seagrass beds that provide habitat for other fishery species.  Cownose rays undertake migrations through the waters of North Carolina in the spring and fall, migrating north to Chesapeake Bay and beyond in the spring, and returning through the waters of North Carolina in the late summer and fall on the way south. 
The goal of my project is to better understand the ecological role and trophic impact of cownose rays in North Carolina by collecting dietary consumption data in North Carolina waters.  Due to the way cownose rays extract and consume their prey, it is very difficult to identify prey items in stomach contents through visual methods.  Molecular identification techniques can improve the accuracy of traditional stomach content analysis by identifying species of prey item at the genetic level.  Specific objectives include 1) analysis of stomach contents to identify which shellfish species are consumed as prey through direct identification techniques;  2) Assess whether cownose rays are eating shellfish of commercial value in North Carolina and Chesapeake Bay by developing and applying a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)-based molecular test.  I hope that my research will better improve our knowledge of the life history of cownose rays, their role in NC coastal and estuarine ecosystems, and contribute to shellfish fishery management plans". ---Lyndell Bade

 Maybe next year during tarpon season we can get the Down East Guides together and stack up some rays for Lyndell.