Together with the Sharklab from Malta, the South African Association for Marine Biological Research, and the IMAR from the Azores, the Sharks Educational Institute is one of the founder's organisations of the Citizen Science project
Fly With Bull Rays, and coordinates all the related activities in the Canary Islands, Spain. Fly With Bull Rays is a project created by Silvio Solleliet-Ferreira which aims at setting the baseline and kick-starting a global population
study for the species Aetomylaeus bovinus.
By developing the first intraspecific photo-identification methodology for Bull Rays, a non-invasive technique, the FWBR Project will enable to start understanding their life history
and support citizen science.
The project is based on a global data-gathering process with routine free-diving surveys and widen the contact network for citizen science; this constant data gathering is expected to provide sufficient data
to publish population studies able to influence local and European decision makers in the future, regarding habitats and species conservation needs.
Since 2015, Bull Rays (Aetomylaeus bovinus) have been part of the 53% of native elasmobranchs
in the Mediterranean Sea which are at risk of extinction. Globaly assessed by the International Union for Conservation of nature (IUCN) in 2006, on the Red List as DD (Data Deficient), the Bull Ray population in the Mediterranean jumped, in 2016, to the CR
(Critically Endangered) statute assessement. The main reason for such population decline relies on bycatch from industrial and artisanal fishing gears. Despite the critical state of this species, its population size, trends, habitat, ecology and dynamic remain
The main objective of this project is the development of the first intraspecific photo-identification methodology for bull rays. Indeed Bull rays have remarkable natural patterns on their back, which make the individual identification
very easy, those patterns are bluish stripes which may remind you of the reflections of the water surface on a sandy bottom.
Photo-identification is considered as a non-invasive method, because we do not disturb the animals, in
this case we do not even touch them in the wild. A simple picture of the animals back is enough to answer major questions about the individual (Who? Sex? Maturity state?). Both invasive and non-invasive techniques have provided relevant results for individual
identification, both with their advantages and limitations.
We need interns and volunteers to run snorkelling surveys and gather picutres of Bull Rays all the time, in Azores, Canary Islands, all around the Atlantic Ocean Eastern coasts,
and in the Mediterranean Sea. If you would like to know more, or if you are looking for an exciting intership, please Email us at email@example.com or visit the website flywithbullrays.eu