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Article

Batoid Abundances, Spatial Distribution, and Life History Traits in the Strait of Sicily (Central Mediterranean Sea): Bridging a Knowledge Gap through Three Decades of Survey

1
Geological and Environmental Sciences (BiGeA)–Marine Biology and Fisheries Laboratory, Department of Biological, University of Bologna, Viale Adriatico 1/n, 61032 Fano, PU, Italy
2
Institute for Marine Biological Resources and Biotechnology (IRBIM), National Research Council–CNR, Via Luigi Vaccara, 61, 91026 Mazara del Vallo, TP, Italy
3
Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights (MAFA), Ghammieri Government Farm, Triq l-Ingiered, Malta
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Christopher Hoagstrom
Animals 2021, 11(8), 2189; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11082189
Received: 26 May 2021 / Revised: 9 July 2021 / Accepted: 14 July 2021 / Published: 23 July 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sharks and Skates: Ecology, Distribution and Conservation)
Batoid species are cartilaginous fish commonly known as rays, but they also include stingrays, electric rays, guitarfish, skates, and sawfish. These species are very sensitive to fishing, mainly because of their slow growth rate and late maturity; therefore, they need to be adequately managed. Regrettably, information on life history traits (e.g., length at first maturity, sex ratio, and growth) and abundance are still scarce, particularly in the Mediterranean Sea. In this regard, the present study focuses on the Strait of Sicily (Central Mediterranean) and aims to improve knowledge gained through scientific survey data. In particular, abundance data, spatial distribution, and some life history traits are herein presented. In the investigated area, the biomass trends of the batoids indicated a slight recovery even if few species showed a depletion. Considering the importance of this taxon for maintaining the marine ecosystem equilibrium, management measures are desirable.
Batoid species play a key role in marine ecosystems but unfortunately they have globally declined over the last decades. Given the paucity of information, abundance data and the main life history traits for batoids, obtained through about three decades of bottom trawl surveys, are presented and discussed. The surveys were carried out in two areas of the Central Mediterranean (South of Sicily and Malta Island), in a timeframe ranging from 1990 to 2018. Excluding some batoids, the abundance trends were stable or increasing. Only R. clavata, R. miraletus, and D. oxyrinchus showed occurrence and abundance indexes notable enough to carry out more detailed analysis. In particular, spatial distribution analysis of these species highlighted the presence of two main hotspots in Sicilian waters whereas they seem more widespread in Malta. The lengths at first maturity (L50) were 695 and 860, 635 and 574, and 364 and 349 mm total length (TL), respectively, for females and males of D. oxyrinchus, R. clavata, and R. miraletus. The asymptotic lengths (L∞) and the curvature coefficients (K) were 1365 and 1240 (K = 0.11 and 0.26), 1260 and 1100 (K = 0.16 and 0.26), and 840 and 800 mm TL (K = 0.36 and 0.41), respectively, for females and males of D. oxyrinchus, R. clavata, and R. miraletus. The lack of detailed quantitative historical information on batoids of Sicily and Malta does not allow to analytically judge the current status of the stocks, although the higher abundance of some species within Malta raises some concern for the Sicilian counterpart. In conclusion, suitable actions to protect batoids in the investigated area are recommended. View Full-Text
Keywords: Mediterranean Sea; bottom trawl survey; spatial distribution; length at first maturity; Linfinity; sex ratio; length–weight relationship Mediterranean Sea; bottom trawl survey; spatial distribution; length at first maturity; Linfinity; sex ratio; length–weight relationship
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MDPI and ACS Style

Geraci, M.L.; Ragonese, S.; Scannella, D.; Falsone, F.; Gancitano, V.; Mifsud, J.; Gambin, M.; Said, A.; Vitale, S. Batoid Abundances, Spatial Distribution, and Life History Traits in the Strait of Sicily (Central Mediterranean Sea): Bridging a Knowledge Gap through Three Decades of Survey. Animals 2021, 11, 2189. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11082189

AMA Style

Geraci ML, Ragonese S, Scannella D, Falsone F, Gancitano V, Mifsud J, Gambin M, Said A, Vitale S. Batoid Abundances, Spatial Distribution, and Life History Traits in the Strait of Sicily (Central Mediterranean Sea): Bridging a Knowledge Gap through Three Decades of Survey. Animals. 2021; 11(8):2189. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11082189

Chicago/Turabian Style

Geraci, Michele Luca, Sergio Ragonese, Danilo Scannella, Fabio Falsone, Vita Gancitano, Jurgen Mifsud, Miriam Gambin, Alicia Said, and Sergio Vitale. 2021. "Batoid Abundances, Spatial Distribution, and Life History Traits in the Strait of Sicily (Central Mediterranean Sea): Bridging a Knowledge Gap through Three Decades of Survey" Animals 11, no. 8: 2189. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11082189

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