A QUILTY fishing crew got a shock last month when they caught the first ever confirmed electric ray in Irish Waters.
Skipper of the MFV Emma Elizabeth, Tommy Galvin, was out with a crew including his son Thomas, fishing crayfish at the back of Mutton Island when the rare Marbled Electric Ray – otherwise known as a Torpedo Marmorata – turned up in their nets.
“We knew straight away it was something you wouldn’t see every day,” Tommy told The Champion. “It was a brownsih colour, around two feet long and weighed around five kilos or so. Thomas got a bit of a shock from it, but strangely I didn’t. We were very cautious with it. Of course, we wear boots and gloves so that would cut limit the charge.”
A keen watcher of sea life, Tommy got some expert advice to help identify what his unusual catch might be. “I got in touch with marine biologist Kevin Flannery, who runs Oceanworld in Dingle, and he was able to identify the fish as a Marbled Electric Ray.”
While the identification was made, the ray was transferred to an on-board sea water tank which normally holds lobsters, before being returned alive to the ocean. “He was very much alive,” said Tommy. “He had the tank to himself while he was aboard and didn’t seem to put out by the experience.”
The historic catch has now been documented by marine biologist Declan Quigley of Sea Fisheries Protection Authority. “This is the first confirmed Irish record,” he told The Champion. “There was one caught off the south coast of Waterford previously, but not in Irish waters. The species would be most common in the Mediterranean, it’s a warm water species. There would be odd straggler in the North Sea from time to time.”
Mr Quigley noted that the presence of the ray in Irish Waters may be an indication of rising sea temperatures. “It could be down to oceanographic changes,” he said. “However, it is also possible that there are a number of these rays present in Irish waters, but haven’t been caught and documented before.”
Sometimes known as a torpedo ray, the fish has electric organs that can stun a human and kill other fish. The Oceana organisation, which promotes biodiversity and the promotion of ocean life, says the ray can deliver a painful and stunning electric charge of up to 200 volts. Oceana describes the fish as “an ambush predator” who shocks unsuspecting prey. Its “formidable demeanour” means few other predators of the sea dare to hunt it.
“That’s fishing,” said Tommy. “You don’t know what will turn up from one day to the next.”