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Urolophus sufflavus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA CHONDRICHTHYES RAJIFORMES UROLOPHIDAE

Scientific Name: Urolophus sufflavus
Species Authority: Whitley, 1929
Common Name(s):
English Yellowback Stingaree
Taxonomic Notes: Local synonymy = Urolophus aurantiacus McCulloch, 1916 (misidentification).

Appears to hybridize with U. cruciatis at the southern end of its range.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2006
Date Assessed: 2006-01-31
Assessor(s): Last, P.R. & Marshall, L.J.
Reviewer(s): Kyne, P.M., Fowler, S.L. & Compagno, L.J.V. (Shark Red List Authority)
Justification:
A stingaree with a restricted distribution off the east coast of Australia from southern Queensland to Green Cape, New South Wales (NSW). It is in fact a NSW near-endemic, ranging only marginally into Queensland waters. Occurs on soft substrates on the continental shelf and upper slope in depths of 45-300 m (mainly on the outer continental shelf in 100 to 160m). The biology of this species is largely unknown but is likely to share reproductive characteristics with other urolophids including low fecundity (1 to 2 young per year). The vast majority of the species' restricted range is fished by Australian Commonwealth and State managed fisheries. It was once abundant, but is now less commonly seen, appearing to have suffered depletion from these fishing activities. The species is taken as bycatch in trawl fisheries off eastern and southern Australia. It is not known to be utilized and is generally discarded, although survivability when caught from depth is unknown but likely low. Of further concern is the high rate of abortion amongst urolophids when caught and handled, particularly given their low fecundity. Fishery-independent trawl surveys comparing the bycatch of chondrichthyans between 1976 to 1977 and 1996 to 1997 off the New South Wales upper slope documented an overall decline in the catch rate of urolophids of 65.6%. Urolophus sufflavus was taken off Sydney survey grounds where the urolophid catch rate declined by 45.0%. Fishing pressure on these trawl grounds remains high. Documented declines, probable limited biological characteristics and the fact that the majority of the species' narrow geographical range has received heavy trawling pressure for numerous decades warrant a Vulnerable assessment.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: New South Wales near-endemic, only marginally entering southern Queensland waters. Broadly distributed throughout its geographic range.
Countries:
Native:
Australia (New South Wales, Queensland)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Native:
Pacific – southwest; Pacific – western central
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Once very common and abundant, the species appears to have suffered depletion from fishing activities.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Occurs on soft substrates on the continental shelf and upper slope in depths of 45 to 300 m (mainly on the outer continental shelf in 100 to 160 m) (Last and Stevens 1994). No specific studies so biology largely unknown. Likely to have low fecundity (1 to 2 young/year) as with other urolophid species (for example, see White et al. 2001).

Life history parameters
Age at maturity (years): Unknown.
Size at maturity (total length cm): Unknown (female); 23 cm TL (Last and Stevens 1994) (male).
Longevity (years): Unknown.
Maximum size (total length): 42 cm TL (Last and Stevens 1994).
Size at birth (cm): Unknown.
Average reproductive age (years): Unknown.
Gestation time (months): Unknown.
Reproductive periodicity: Unknown.
Average annual fecundity or litter size: Unknown.
Annual rate of population increase: Unknown.
Natural mortality: Unknown.
Systems: Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Fishery-independent trawl surveys comparing the bycatch of chondrichthyans between 1976-77 and 1996-97 off the New South Wales upper slope documented an overall decline in the catch rate of urolophids of 65.6% (Graham et al. 2001). Urolophus bucculentus and U. viridis were the commonly caught species, while U. sufflavus and U. cruciatus were taken in smaller quantities. Urolophus sufflavus was taken off Sydney survey grounds where the urolophid catch rate declined by 45.0% (Graham et al. 2001). Fishing pressure on these trawl grounds as part of the Commonwealth-managed Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) remains high.

This species has a high "availability" to shark gillnet gear and a high "encounterability" and "selectivity" to otter trawl gear in the SESSF. However, the species has a low "catch susceptibility" to all gear types (including shark gillnet and otter trawl) used in the fishery (catch susceptibility is defined as "availability" x "encounterability" x "selectivity" x "post-capture mortality"; Walker 2004).

State-managed fisheries also operate in the area of occurrence and depth range of U. sufflavus, for example the NSW Oceanic Prawn Trawl Fishery and the Queensland East Coast Trawl Fishery (Eastern King Prawn Sector).

Of concern is the high rate of abortion amongst urolophids when caught and handled, particularly given their low fecundity.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Research is required on the species' biology and habitat preferences. Bycatch monitoring is required in all fisheries within the species' range. Effort reduction and/or bycatch minimization in southeastern Australia fisheries is required to allow recovery and this and other depleted chondrichthyans.

Areas of habitat closed to trawling activities will be necessary to conserve the species.

The effective implementation of the Australian National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (Shark Advisory Group and Lack 2004) (under the FAO International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks: IPOA-Sharks) will help to facilitate the conservation and sustainable management of all chondrichthyan species in Australia.

Citation: Last, P.R. & Marshall, L.J. 2006. Urolophus sufflavus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 27 November 2014.
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