Small-scale fisheries have generally targeted Mobulas for meat (consumed locally), cartilage (exported as filler for shark fin soup), skin (exported for leather) or their carcasses (for fishing bait). In places like the Gulf of California, Mexico, Mobula meat was sold fresh or dried as machaca on the local markets until 2004, when capture, trade, and consumption of Mobulas throughout Mexico was prohibited (NOM-029-PESCA 2004).
Although illegal fishing still exists, the main problem has become accidental bycatch of Mobulas in gill nets set for other species. Our work focuses on characterizing these interactions, understanding where, when, and on what fishing gear, species, and sizes bycatch is highest. Finally, our work seeks to implement gear modifications and management restrictions that will reduce bycatch numbers.
The protected status of manta and devil rays means that their capture and mortality should be avoided or minimized. In order to facilitate the live release of Mobula rays that are caught as bycatch in artisanal fisheries, we are investigating the survival rate of Mobulas liberated from small-scale fishing gear. Using acoustic tags, we aim to detect released Mobula rays on an acoustic receiver array in order to confirm their survival in the Gulf of California. Working with artisanal fishermen, we aim to establish best practices to liberate the rays and increase chances for survival.