Western Australia Minister for Environment Donna Faragher
New species of Stingray discovered at Ningaloo
Victor P Taffa
Scientists have discovered a new species of Stingray at Ningaloo Marine Park.
Western Australia Minister for Environment Donna Faragher said the discovery was made during a series of dive surveys conducted by the CSIRO, in collaboration with the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and the Western Australian Marine Science Institution.
Mrs. Faragher said the ray was part of the Maskray family, with a maximum wingspan of 30cm – much smaller than most rays found at Ningaloo.
“The discovery of these magnificent creatures highlights the importance of the Ningaloo Marine Park.” the Minister said.
“It is an area of outstanding beauty, biological richness and international geological significance and we need to ensure it is protected and conserved.”
CSIRO scientist Will White said the discovery of the ray (Neotrygon sp.) highlighted that there was still much to learn about the sharks and rays that inhabit the World Heritage-nominated area along the Ningaloo coast.
“Since the find at Ningaloo, we have been able to establish that this species also exists 400 km further South in Shark Bay.” Dr. White said.
“The very specific habitat occupied by this ray means that careful monitoring and management is required. They also live close to the shore, so people may encounter the creature close-up.”
DEC marine scientist Kelly Waples said the dive surveys had documented 47 species of sharks and rays, although it was estimated that as many as 118 species of sharks and rays occurred in the Marine Park.
“Initial results from these surveys indicate that the Marine Park’s shark and ray populations are healthy and benefiting from zoning designed to protect representative populations.” Mrs. Faragher said.
“Satellite tags have also been used to track large predatory tiger and hammerhead sharks to find out whether they are residents or visitors to the marine park.”
Dr. Waples said the current research at Ningaloo Marine Park would add to the scientific knowledge now being gathered by DEC and will be used in the development of its broader marine monitoring program along the entire WA Coast.