Le Port, A., Lavery, S., and Montgomery, J. C. 2012. Conservation of coastal stingrays: seasonal abundance and population structure of the short-tailed stingray Dasyatis brevicaudata at a Marine Protected Area. – ICES Journal of Marine Science, 69: .Elasmobranch (shark, ray, and skate) populations around the world are in decline, and effective conservation measures are urgently needed. Marine Protected Areas (MPA) placed in locations important for key life-history stages may form part of an effective conservation strategy. In this context, we examined the seasonal abundance and population structure of the short-tailed stingray (Dasyatis brevicaudata) at an offshore MPA in northeastern New Zealand, and the reported use of this location as a mating ground. Diver surveys were conducted from 2004 to 2007 at the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve (PKIMR). During this time, we observed: (i) a substantial increase in adult and subadult numbers, particularly females during the suggested breeding season, and a corresponding increase in females bearing fresh mating scars; and (ii) large numbers of smaller (probably immature) D. brevicaudata individuals of both sexes from spring to autumn. These results suggest that the PKIMR acts as both a mating aggregation location and a nursery for this species. We suggest that for coastal stingrays such as D. brevicaudata, small MPAs may be effective at protecting key life-history stages, but that as movements outside of reserve boundaries also occur, additional management tools may also be necessary.
Keywords: coastal elasmobranch; Marine Protected Area; mating aggregation; seasonal aggregation; site fidelity
Journal Article. 5902 words. Illustrated.
Subjects: Environmental Science ; Marine and Estuarine Biology
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