In 2011, Sharklab-Malta recorded for the first time the presence of a bull ray (Aetomylaeus bovinus) in Maltese waters, subsequently publishing a scientific paper. Since this first sighting Sharklab has continued to collect reports and pictures of this amazing species.
In 2015, Silvio Solleliet-Ferreira started an internship as a Masters student from La Rochelle University with the objective “To study the local population of Aetomylaeus bovinus, using their natural dorsal patterns and develop a simple photo identification process to identify the number of individuals present”. Silvio spent 5 months snorkeling around Malta, gathering pictures of Bull rays and creating a simple identification process. It was during this experience with Sharklab-Malta that he really discovered his passion for sharks and rays, and decided to study behavioral ecology and conservation of apex predators.
Around this time the “International Union for Conservation of Nature” (IUCN) had classified the species as Data Deficient (DD) in the Mediterranean Sea. In 2016, the species jumped from the status, Data Deficient (DD) to Critically Endangered (Cr), the last step before extinction.
Since then, Silvio while studying in the Azores, decided to act for the conservation of bull rays across the Mediterranean and created the project “Fly With Bull Rays” (FWBR), to start studying bull ray (Aetomylaeus bovinus) populations in terms of size, trend, habitat, ecology and threats on a wider scale. Using an intraspecific and non-invasive photo-identification methodology for the species which was developed from his Internship in Malta.