Himantura astra 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Chondrichthyes Rajiformes Dasyatidae

Scientific Name: Himantura astra
Species Authority: Last, Manjaji-Matsumoto & Pogonoski, 2008
Common Name(s):
English Blackspotted Whipray, Tosh's Longtail Ray, Coachwhip Ray, Tosh's Whipray, Wulura
Taxonomic Notes:

There have been recent taxonomic name changes within the genus Himantura due to access to more specimens (Last et al. 2008). Himantura astra had previously been confused with H. toshi and the two forms had been considered to be a single species, however they are now known to be two morphologically distinct species. Himantura toshi (sensu Last & Stevens, 1994) has been renamed H. astra Last, Manjaji-Matsumoto & Pogonoski, 2008 (Last et al. 2008, Last and Stevens 2009) and Himantura sp. A (sensu Last & Stevens, 1994) is considered to be H. toshi Whitley, 1939 (Last et al. 2008, Last and Stevens 2009).

The presence of black spots on juveniles of H. astra and their absence in H. toshi distinguishes juveniles of these two species. Adult colouration of the dorsal disc and post-sting tail is also different: Himantura astra have dark spots often surrounded by a rosette of white spots with the post-sting tail black and white banded dorsally and pale ventrally while H. toshi often have fine whitish spots and flecks with the post-sting tail blackish both dorsally and ventrally (Last et al. 2008, Last and Stevens 2009).

In addition, H. astra has been frequently misidentified as a colour variant of H. uarnak and H. gerrardi. Newborns and small juveniles of H. astra are similar in disc shape and sometimes colour to other species of the uarnak complex (a subgroup of mainly reticulated, ocellated or spotted whiprays); in particular to H. uarnak and H. gerrardi, however the snout angle of H. astra is the narrowest of the three species. Adults of H. astra have a spotted pattern rather than the reticulate pattern of adult H. uarnak and black spots rather than the small white spots of adult H. gerrardi (Last et al. 2008, Last and Stevens 2009).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-02-20
Assessor(s): Rigby, C.
Reviewer(s): Walls, R.H.L. & Kyne, P.M.
Contributor(s): Kyne, P.M.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Kyne, P.M. & Walls, R.H.L.

The Blackspotted Whipray (Himantura astra) is a medium-sized whipray (up to at least 80 cm disc width) that occurs from inshore to depths of 140 m and is widely distributed throughout tropical Australia and off southern New Guinea. It is utilized bycatch of trawl and beach seine fisheries operating in the Arafura Sea, outside the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ). Trawl fishing pressure in this area is intensive; previously more than 600 trawlers operated and although the numbers of currently active trawlers is unclear, there are still high levels of Indonesian trawl fishing in the area. This level of exploitation is of concern to the sustainability of Blackspotted Whipray in the Arafura Sea outside the AFZ. It is also taken in high numbers as a bycatch in the Gulf of Papua prawn trawl fishery in PNG. In Australian waters, this species was shown to have a high capacity to recover after depletion from trawling, however the level of trawling activity there is not as intensive as that outside the AFZ and an assessment of catches and monitoring of population trends is required in the Arafura Sea outside the AFZ. Fisheries in northern Australia are relatively well managed and the introduction of turtle exclusion devices (TEDs) and other bycatch reduction devices has significantly reduced the bycatch of batoids, particularly larger individuals. As the majority of its range is in tropical Australia where mortality in fisheries is low, and where it is common and abundant, it is assessed as Least Concern globally at present.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2011 Least Concern (LC)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

The Blackspotted Whipray occurs across northern Australia, southern West Papua (Indonesia) and southern Papua New Guinea. Throughout tropical Australia it is widely distributed and occurs between Shark Bay (Western Australia) and Moreton Bay (Queensland) including the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea (Last et al. 2008, Last and Stevens 2009).

Countries occurrence:
Australia (Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia); Indonesia (Papua); Papua New Guinea (Papua New Guinea (main island group))
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – western central
Lower depth limit (metres): 140
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


The Blackspotted Whipray is very common and abundant in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia (Last and Stevens 1994, 2009).

Current Population Trend: Unknown
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

The Blackspotted Whipray is demersal and occurs on soft substrates on the continental shelf from inshore to 140 m depth (White et al. 2006, Last et al. 2008, Last and Stevens 2009). It is more common offshore in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia than the closely related Brown Whipray (H. toshi) (Last et al. 2008). It attains at least 180 cm total length (TL) and 80 cm disc width (DW) with females generally larger than males; reports of individuals larger than 100 cm DW are probably incorrect. Both sexes mature at 40–47 cm DW and an estimated 8–10 years; birth size is about 17–21 cm DW (Jacobsen 2007, Last et al. 2008, Last and Stevens 2009). Maximum age estimates range from 19–24 years for males and 28–31 years for females (Jacobsen 2007). Reproduction is viviparous with 1–3 pups.

Systems: Marine

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

In Indonesia, this ray is used for its meat, cartilage and high value skin (White et al. 2006, Last and Stevens 2009).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

The threats previously reported for Brown Whipray in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) (Manjaji and White 2004) are likely to be threats for this species as the recent taxonomic revision places Blackspotted Whipray not Brown Whipray in Indonesia and PNG. In the Arafura Sea, this species is utilized bycatch of beach seine and bottom trawl fisheries (White et al. 2006, White and Dharmadi 2007). In 2004, it was reported that large numbers (~650) of trawlers operated in the Arafura Sea, from the port of Merauke in West Papua, and presumably took large quantities of this ray (Manjaji and White 2004). Although the numbers of trawlers currently operating is unclear, this intensive fishing pressure still continues; high levels of Indonesian trawl fishing in the Arafura Sea adjacent to the Australian Fishing Zone have recently been reported (Heazle and Butcher 2007, Northern Territory Government 2009). It was also previously stated that low numbers of juveniles were caught by beach seine fishers targeting penaeid prawns in southern Papua (Manjaji and White 2004). A prawn trawl fishery consisting of about 9 vessels operates in the Gulf of Papua in southern Papua New Guinea, in which high numbers of this species are caught as bycatch (W. White, pers. comm., 2015).

In Australia, this whipray was one of the most commonly caught elasmobranchs in the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF), however it was considered to be among the NPF bycatch species most likely to be able to sustain capture due partly to a high capacity to recover after depletion from trawling (Stobutzki et al. 2002). The introduction of turtle exclusion devices (TEDs) in 2000 and other bycatch reduction devices has significantly reduced the bycatch of this species, particularly those individuals >100 cm DW (Brewer et al. 2004). It has also been recorded in research surveys of the Queensland East Coast Trawl Fishery. In that fishery, it was a minor component of the bycatch in the banana prawn and scallop sectors (Stobutzki et al. 2001, Courtney et al. 2007). Although also a minor component of the tiger/Endeavour prawn sectors of this fishery, it was one of the most abundant elasmobranchs captured (Kyne 2008).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: As a commonly captured bycatch species, research is required to improve knowledge of its life history characteristics and to assess catches and monitor population trends in the waters of the Arafura Sea outside the Australian Fishing Zone. In Queensland, Australia there is a recreational fishing limit per trip of one ray of 1.5 metres maximum total length; this limit is not species-specific and includes all rays. The use of turtle exclusion devices in Australian trawl fisheries would reduce the catch of this species, although not of smaller individuals which can still fit through the exclusion bars and still enter the codend (Kyne 2008).

The Gulf of Papua prawn trawl fishery is managed under national laws and regulations (PNG), and there are some seasonal closures in place; although bycatch reduction devices are not currently in place, there are plans to implement in the near future (L. Baje, National Fisheries Authority, pers. comm., 2015). Detailed species composition data for the bycatch is not currently available, but this is currently being investigated (L. Baje, National Fisheries Authority, pers. comm., 2015). 

Citation: Rigby, C. 2015. Himantura astra. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T195455A68627066. . Downloaded on 26 November 2015.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided