Thornback Ray Project
Thornback Ray © David Cook.

The aim of the Thornback Ray Project is to investigate the population structure of Thornback Rays around the Llŷn Peninsula, North Wales.

The Thornback Ray (Raja clavata), is one of the most common ray species found around the UK and is regularly caught by commercial fishermen and recreational anglers. Typically inhabiting continental shelf and upper slope waters from around 10 to 300 m (32-985 ft) and preferring soft substrates such as mud and sand, Thornback Rays can also be found over gravel and rock beds. They are seasonally migratory, spending the winter in deeper water and coming into shallower areas in the late spring and summer to breed. Juveniles are more likely to be found in shallower, coastal waters than adults as these areas are used as nursery grounds. 

The IUCN Red List classifies the species as Near Threatened and it is believed that some populations around the country have declined significantly. It is therefore important we find out as much about the species as possible if populations are to be preserved at a healthy level.

Previous studies of Thornback Rays in the southern North Sea indicate that there are localised subpopulations with limited mixing between them. Information from anglers in North Wales has revealed differences in the morphology of Thornback Rays around the Llŷn Peninsula: it appears that rays in the south are significantly thornier than rays in the north.

To further investigate this difference, the Shark Trust and National Museums Liverpool have initiated a tagging programme with local anglers, the primary aim of which is to investigate whether these two morphotypes are from distinct populations with limited mixing between the two stocks. The findings of this study will have implications for the management and conservation of this species in North Wales and the Liverpool Bay area.

Reward for Recaptures

There is a £4 reward for information on any recaptures of these tagged Thornback Rays. The information provided must include where the ray was caught and the code on the tag. Additional information including size, weight, sex and any comments on the rays condition are also useful, if it is possible to record them. The reward is provided by National Museums Liverpool as part of the Ray Watch Project.

Contact us to report your records.

Related Links:

Map of Tag Locations

Thornback Ray ID Guide