From 2016 through 2018, researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Research Institute, Mote Marine Laboratory, the Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, the University of Florida, and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission along with its Research Institute, tagged 54 rays with acoustic transmitters and tracked them using telemetry networks (iTAG and FACT) along Florida’s Gulf coast and east coast, including in the Indian River Lagoon.
Detections of tagged rays indicate that the west coast rays migrated north and south, likely cued by seasonal changes in water temperature while the east coast rays remained resident in and around the Indian River Lagoon, with the youngest rays spending the most time in the lagoon.
This study is the first to provide multi-year information on the distribution and movement of the species and could help in crafting strategies for protection that is specific to different areas of its range. For instance, the rays in the Indian River Lagoon are subjected to various human-induced environmental changes that impact the quality of their habitat.
The study also suggests that the rays living in the Lagoon could be a sub-population.