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First pilot release of bred thornback rays!

Last Saturday, October 14th, brought  a milestone in the project ‘Sharks and Rays back into the North Sea’. 

The five first bred thornback rays were released. A great event, which received a lot media attention. Read more about the project here: Sharks and Rays back into the North Sea!

The most frequently asked question by media and attendants: “why thornback rays??? Aren’t the populations increasing?” There is a simple answer to that. The status of the thornback ray (Raja clavata) is Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List for Europe. There has been an increase in catches along the English coast and in Denmark. In Dutch waters, this previously overfished species is much less common. 

The data that are collected through the released animals will in future help other species, like the angel sharks and the flapper skate. After extensive experiences, tag and DNA testing (read the report here) we now know breeding in captivity and tagging are feasible, and want to know how these released animals will migrate from the Eastern Schelde, a historic habitat for thornback rays, to the North Sea. A habitat analysis showed that the Eastern Schelde is a suitable habitat, with good conditions and food (read it here

The species was heavily overfished in the second half of the last century, and also lost a breeding area because of the new IJsselmeer, for which the former Zuiderzee was closed off. This tagging research will give more information about growth rate, migration, survival, growth, and mapping habitat along the Dutch coast. All recatches can be reported through

The rays were released by the director of World Wide Fund for Nature in the Netherlands, Kirsten Schuijt and project leader Monique van de Water, Joop Bongers and Niels Brevé of the Dutch Recreational Angling Union, Georgina Wiersma of Dutch Shark Society and Michael Laterveer of breeding facility BlueLinked. Peter Verhoog was the staff photographer of the day!




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