Neotrygon picta 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Chondrichthyes Rajiformes Dasyatidae

Scientific Name: Neotrygon picta
Species Authority: Last & White, 2008
Common Name(s):
English Speckled Maskray
Taxonomic Notes: The Speckled Maskray (Neotrygon picta) was thought to be a regional colour variant of Neotrygon (formerly Dasyatis) leylandi (Last, 1987) until described as a new species by Last and White (2008). The latter publication also resurrected the genus Neotrygon for the maskray species, Bluespotted Maskray (N. kuhlii), Painted Maskray (N. leylandi), Plain Maskray (N. annotata), Ningaloo Maskray (N. ningalooensis) and the Speckled Maskray.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-08-24
Assessor(s): Pierce, S.J., White, W.T., Jacobsen, I.P., Barratt, P.J., Last, P.R. & Kyne, P.M.
Reviewer(s): Walls, R.H.L. & Lawson, J.
Contributor(s): Walls, R.H.L.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Walls, R.H.L. & Kyne, P.M.

The Speckled Maskray (Neotrygon picta) is a small maskray species that is regularly caught as a bycatch of prawn trawl fisheries in northeast Australian coastal waters. This species was previously regarded as a colour morph of the Painted Maskray (N. leylandi). The Speckled Maskray appears to be reasonably common over much of its range, although species-specific population assessment is hampered by the lumping of catches into generic divisions and the recent split of this species from the closely-related Painted Maskray from Western Australia. Recent studies indicate that the species has a low rate of fishing mortality overall in the Northern Prawn Fishery. In addition, the Speckled Maskray is protected within some of the Great Barrier Reef region in its east coast range. However, due to its small size, the Speckled Maskray is unlikely to be effectively excluded by the turtle exclusion devices presently used by the tropical Australian prawn trawl fleet. Individuals caught in these fisheries have a moderately high mortality rate. The species has a low fecundity of 1–3 pups, with preliminary results suggesting an annual reproductive cycle. The Speckled Maskray is listed as Least Concern, with a caveat that this is dependent on the presence of large unfished areas and minimal fisheries effort over some other parts of its range.

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

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Speckled Maskray is found in northeastern Australia (possibly also New Guinea) from the Wessel Islands (Northern Territory) to Hervey Bay (Queensland). The western limit of its distribution has still not been well defined (Last and Stevens 2009).
Countries occurrence:
Australia (Northern Territory, Queensland)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – western central
Lower depth limit (metres): 100
Upper depth limit (metres): 5
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


The Speckled Maskray is a highly abundant species within some parts of its distribution; commonly caught as trawl bycatch within the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF) in the Gulf of Carpentaria (Zhou and Griffiths 2008). On the east coast, common on Queensland scallop trawling grounds between Yeppoon and Hervey Bay (Kyne et al. 2005), but not commonly encountered on east coast prawn trawl grounds north of Cairns (Kyne 2008). Also a prominent species in the Torres Strait (Pitcher et al. 2007) and a likely component of elasmobranch bycatch in the Torres Strait Prawn Fishery (I.P. Jacobsen, pers. obs., 2010).

There is some evidence for long-term decline in the mean abundance of Neotrygon spp. in the Gulf of Carpentaria, from a mean (± s.e.) of 0.99 ± 0.36 fish ha-1 in 1964 to 0.35 ± 0.08 fish ha-1 in 1986 (Harris and Poiner 1991). While this difference was non-significant, trawl surveys generally lack statistical power (Heales et al. 2007).

The grouping of Neotrygon spp., and recent split of the Speckled Maskray from the Painted Maskray, has obscured species-specific population trends.

Current Population Trend: Unknown
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

The Speckled Maskray is most common in shallow water less than 25 m depth but probably to about 100 m (Last and Stevens 2009, I.P. Jacobsen, pers. obs., 2010). It is a small species, attaining a disc width (DW) of up to around 32 cm (Jacobsen and Bennett 2010). The most comprehensive analysis of the species' biology was undertaken by Jacobsen and Bennett (2010) based on prawn trawl bycatch specimens from northeast Australia. Size at 50% maturity in females was 18.1 cm DW, and age at maturity was 3–4 years. The smallest gravid female was 17.2 cm DW (Jacobsen and Bennett 2010). The species has a low fecundity with 1–3 embryos per litter (Jacobsen and Bennett 2010). Preliminary investigation (Jacobsen 2008) suggested that the Speckled Maskray undergoes a single reproductive event annually.

Systems: Marine

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The Speckled Maskray is not harvested commercially in Australia (Last and Stevens 2009).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

As with many other small demersal stingrays, the Speckled Maskray is highly susceptible to capture in trawl fisheries. It is a common component of prawn trawl bycatch (which is discarded) within its range. Survivorship is generally unknown, and probably dependent on the method of capture. Stobutzki et al. (2002) reports that 27% of females and 95% of males (57% total) captured in the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF) died in the trawl net. This species does not appear to be robust in heavy trawl gear with scallop catch, where it is often crushed, resulting in reasonable mortality (Kyne 2008).

There is particularly high pressure on this species in the Gulf of Carpentaria. In the area of the NPF it is caught in about 15% of trawls and accounts for about 4.5% of the total catch (Stobutzki et al. 2002). However, a more recent evaluation of NPF bycatch found that a low proportion of the species' total abundance in the region occurred in fished areas, and consequently fishing mortality is likely to be much lower than the maximum sustainable mortality (Zhou and Griffiths 2008). The species' western limit remains poorly known and thus it is unclear whether it is affected by fishing pressures within the Arafura Sea. Additional information is also required on catch rates in the Torres Strait Prawn Fishery (TSPF).

In the scallop sector of the Queensland East Coast Trawl Fishery, fishery-independent surveys between Yeppoon and Hervey Bay revealed that the Speckled Maskray was the third most common elasmobranch species by number in the bycatch (15.6% of elasmobranch bycatch) (Kyne 2008). Also, the effect of trawl fishing on the macrobenthos, which is the primary habitat of this species, is another concern.

Fishing effort in the TSPF and the NPF has reduced in intensity relative to historical levels (Flood and Mazur 2014, Larcombe and Skirtun 2014). For example, the TSPF is currently using around 22% of the effort allocation or ~2,000 days of a 9,200 day Total Allowable Effort. In comparison, the TSPF regularly fished 9,500–12,000 days per season between 1990 and 2001.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

The Speckled Maskray is protected over some of its east coast range within no-fishing areas of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Although turtle exclusion devices (TEDs) are mandatory within all Australian prawn trawl fisheries, this small species is unlikely to be effectively excluded by current devices. The Speckled Maskray would benefit from a careful evaluation of alternative or additional TED options. Generally, evaluation of the species' conservation status would be facilitated by improved monitoring of bycatch, in terms of both the absolute numbers caught and trends in abundance.

Citation: Pierce, S.J., White, W.T., Jacobsen, I.P., Barratt, P.J., Last, P.R. & Kyne, P.M. 2015. Neotrygon picta. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T195464A68636975. . Downloaded on 25 November 2015.
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