Understanding Undulates Project

Undulate Ray © Cat Gordon.

The British Isles represent the northern-most limit for the Undulate Ray (Raja undulata), with the species found on the southern and western coasts of England, Wales and Ireland, however distribution is patchy, with the species abundant in only a few localised areas. Reaching up to one metre total length, Undulate Rays mature at a large size (approximately 75cm) and produce relatively few young – characteristics which make them vulnerable to overexploitation in fisheries. Historically a commercially important fish, declines have been documented in some areas in which it was formerly abundant, while in others populations remain stable. Following an Endangered listing on the IUCN Red List in 2008, in 2009 the Undulate Ray was designated a Prohibited Species under the EU Common Fisheries Policy.

The Project

As the first round of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) came into being in late 2013, English and UK offshore waters gained 27 new protected areas encompassing some 9,700 sq. km. Just one of several different types of marine protected area, MCZs are used to conserve rare or threatened habitats and species, as well as species that are representative of the biodiversity in our seas.

Lack of inclusion of many highly mobile species – including sharks, skates and rays – in the first round of MCZ designations left the Shark Trust disappointed. As well as having static (or stationary) phases within their life-histories, such as egglaying, many have experienced steep declines in abundance and reduction in range which far exceeds those of other species included in the MCZ process.

To address gaps within the current network a second round of MCZ designations is in the pipeline, with 37 additional sites to be assessed as potential candidates. As part of this, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has engaged the Shark Trust to gather data on the Undulate Ray, a species known to occur at two south coast candidate MCZ sites. 

Undulate Ray populations would benefit from the protection of crucial egglaying and nursery grounds within the MCZs network. The aim of the project is to improve the resolution of knowledge – or ‘zoom in’ on – the range and abundance of Undulate Ray populations around the Southern and Southwest coasts of England and Wales, with a particular focus on egglaying and nursery grounds. The project will develop a body of information to support other, more traditional sources of data such as ground fish trawls and commercial landings data, in the process ensuring the best available information is included in the MCZ designation process.

Get Involved

Eggcase Hunters - With over 53,000 eggcases now logged by the Great Eggcase Hunt, results already indicate a number of Undulate Ray egg-laying grounds along the Southern coast of England. However the more Undulate Ray eggcases recorded, the greater the degree of certainly we can have regarding the location and extent of these important areas.

Divers - Equally valuable are records of in-situ eggcases - those eggcases still in place on the seafloor, from which juveniles have not yet hatched. In-situ eggcases provide inconvertible evidence of critically important egg-laying grounds; similarly, in some locations divers have reported encounters with free-swimming juvenile and adult Undulate Rays.

Anglers - Undulate Rays have distinctive markings making them easily identifiable, with anglers uniquely placed to record information on abundance and distribution.

 ➤ Record your eggcases

Record your sightings

Record your catch

Related Links:

➤ Great Eggcase Hunt - Undulate Ray distribution

➤ Search for Undulate Rays on our Sightings Database

Download Undulate Ray ID Guide (pdf)