A County Clare Skipper and his crew got a shock as they hauled in Ireland’s 1st Marbled Electric Ray, also known as a Torpedo Marmorata. Photo Phillipe Guillaume
A fishing crew from Co Clare got a big shock last month when they landed the first ever confirmed electric ray in Irish waters.
Skipper Tom Galvin and his crew, along with his son Thomas were fishing for crayfish on board their boat, the MFV Emma Elizabeth when they found a rare Marbled Electric Ray, also known as a Torpedo Marmorata, in their tangle nets.
Speaking to Fiona McGarry from the Clare Champion, Skipper Tommy told her “We knew straight away it was something you wouldn’t see every day,” Tommy told The Champion. “It was a brownish 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 onboard 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.”