A species of ray, so rare it has only ever been recorded once back in the late 1800s, has been declared extinct.

The loss of the Java Stingaree, a small relative of stingrays, is the first marine fish extinction as a result of human activity.

The Java Stingaree (Urolophus javanicus) was known only from a single specimen collected in 1862 from a fish market in Jakarta, Indonesia.

An international team led by Charles Darwin University (CDU) conducted new modelling encompassing all available information on the species which has revealed the Java Stingaree as extinct.

CDU PhD Candidate and lead assessor, Julia Constance said a range of issues had contributed to the Java Stingaree’s disappearance.

“Intensive and generally unregulated fishing is likely the major threat resulting in the depletion of the Java Stingaree population, with coastal fish catches in the Java Sea already declining by the 1870s,” Ms Constance said.

“The northern coast of Java, particularly Jakarta Bay where the species was known to occur, is also heavily industrialised, with extensive, long-term habitat loss and degradation.”

“These impacts were severe enough to unfortunately cause the extinction of this species,” she said.


Photo: The Java Stingaree specimen. Photo credit: Edda Aßel, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.


As part of the assessment of the plight of the Java Stingaree, the team looked at known threats such as overfishing and habitat loss and whether the species had been recorded in fish markets through surveys.  The Java Stingaree was a unique dinner plate-sized ray with no similar species in Java and the fact it has not been found during innumerable surveys confirms its extinction.

CDU’s Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods Senior Research Fellow Dr Peter Kyne said there are over 120 Critically Endangered marine fishes in the world and that the loss of the Java Stingaree is a tipping point for marine biodiversity.

“The Java Stingaree being named as extinct is a warning sign for everyone across the world that we must protect threatened marine species,” Dr Kyne said.

“We must think about appropriate management strategies like protecting habitat and reducing overfishing while also securing the livelihoods of people reliant on fish resources.”

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