Montenegrin Ecologists Society: Estimation of Rays in Montenegro

Montenegrin Ecologists Society aims to offer through its activities an efficient and an effective model for facing current challenges in the area of nature conservation. In this respect, the organization implements an interdisciplinary approach in the mentioned area, which ensures the continuous valorization of natural resources, and applies principles for sustainable development.

The idea for realization of such a project came from the observation during the fieldwork of other projects and the lack of data and concern about rays in Montenegro. Our state is mainly dedicated to bony fish and elasmobranchs are poorly considered by the institutions. Rays have become very rare and there is a need to find out the current state of these species and compare it to previous data. The new data will come from current fishermen who are present in the water everyday.  Almost all segments of Montenegrin fishing fleet have some of these species occasionally in catches. Among the present species there are Torpedo spp., Raja spp., Myliobatis aquila and others. Today, declining of their abundance, especially of those commercially important, is more than obvious. Fishermen are not educated well about their importance for the marine ecosystem and that needs to be improved. Some of these species, as those from genus Raja are very desirable on markets, but their amount is not so big on the same. Those that are desirable to catch such as Raja asterias and Raja clavata have declining population trends and are near threatened according to the IUCN. Elasmobranchs have long pre-mature period and small number of pups, which reflects negative on the intensive fishing pressure. Recovery of their stocks is much harder than other fish. These facts need to be adopted by fishermen and institutions as most important stakeholders, so they can improve the state of the sea by contributing the preservation of rays.

Beside the data collecting, the project will have a conservation role and message. Elasmobranch are among the most endangered species in the world. Ecological consciousness along with concern about their populations is poorly developed in the local community, both fishermen and public. During the project duration, it is planned to inform wider community by publishing articles in popular newspapers and on social networks and websites of Montenegrin Ecologists Society and partner organizations. Connection with citizens group Stop illegal fishing will be created in order to promote the project among the fishermen community. Project predicts making of educational material for the community.

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