Scientia Marina, Vol 78, No 2 (2014)

Summer distribution and abundance of the giant devil ray (Mobula mobular) in the Adriatic Sea: Baseline data for an iterative management framework

Caterina Maria Fortuna
Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) , Italy

Laurence Kell
ICCAT Secretariat , Spain

Draško Holcer
Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation - Croatian Natural History Museum , Croatia

Simonepietro Canese
Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) , Italy

Elio Filidei Jr.
Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) , Italy

Peter Mackelworth
Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation , Croatia

Greg Donovan
International Whaling Commission , United Kingdom


The giant devil ray (Mobula mobular) is a poorly understood protected endemic species of the eastern Atlantic-Mediterranean region. However, to date there are no range-wide management actions in place. This paper provides the first overview of the summer distribution and abundance of this species and other Myliobatiformes within the Adriatic Sea based on an aerial survey. Although the survey´s primary targets were cetaceans and sea turtles, the study showed that it was possible to use the survey to monitor other species. Abundance estimates are derived using conventional distance sampling analysis. Giant devil rays were observed mainly in the central-southern Adriatic (88% of total sightings). A total of 1595 giant devil rays were estimated in the central-southern Adriatic Sea [coefficient of variation(CV)=25%, uncorrected estimate for perception and availability bias]. When corrected for availability bias the number of specimens was estimated at 3255 (CV=56%). Population growth rate was estimated using life history traits and a sensitivity analysis was conducted to evaluate the benefit of improving biological knowledge on this data-poor species. A power analysis showed that a long-term commitment to an aerial survey would be necessary to monitor population trends. Conservation implications and future work, including how the study could be used to conduct an ecological risk assessment are discussed.


aerial survey; conservation; conventional distance sampling; ecological risk assessment; management; Myliobatiformes; sensitivity; power analysis

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