Death of rare shark ray a mystery
A near-threatened species of ray more than 2mlong was found on Machans Beach yesterday and is believed to have been left for dead.
Cairns marine biologist Dr Barbara Wueringer spotted the shark ray close to the mouth of the Barron River and stopped to inspect it.
"It was above the high tide mark but there is no way it could have got itself there," she said. "Everybody who walked past looked at it – it definitely stood out. I measured it and cut it open to see if it was sexually mature and it was, which makes it more disturbing – they are rare and listed as vulnerable nationally."
"It’s a close relative of a shovel nose ray and has a shark-like body with gills on the underside."
The shark ray – also known as a bowmouth guitarfish or mud skate – is usually found in tropical and subtropical waters and offshore reefs.
Dr Wueringer, who works for the University of Western Australia and James Cook University, said not much was known about the species, which was an important part of the ecosystem.
"Animals like that should be released and enjoyed, not killed for absolutely nothing," she said. "There are some really amazing and unique animals out there and people need to be aware of them, especially when they go out fishing and interact with them. People need to know what is allowed."
She added the ray’s teeth were not sharp and are used for crushing shellfish, which should not harm fishermen when releasing them.
In Queensland, there is a size limit of 1.5m that applies to catching sharks and rays.
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Concern: Marine biologist Dr Barbara Wueringer with the dead shark ray she found on Machans Beach. It was above the high tide mark but there is no way it could have got itself there, she told The Cairns Post.