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Newport Aquarium Launches World’s First Shark Ray Breeding Program, Adds Rare Male Shark Ray

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NEWPORT, Kentucky -- Efforts to save threatened aquatic animals will be helped by the Newport Aquarium’s acquisition of a rare male Shark Ray. Starting on February 14, the Newport Aquarium in Newport, Ky., will be the first and only location in the Western Hemisphere to display a male and female Shark Ray pair. This new permanent addition makes it possible for a first-of-its-kind international Shark Ray Breeding Program to begin at the Newport Aquarium.

The extremely rare male Shark Ray is currently held in a Newport Aquarium acclimation tank before it will be released into the 385,000-gallon Surrounded by Sharks exhibit where it will join Sweet Pea, the female Shark Ray. In June 2005, Newport Aquarium made history by becoming the first aquarium in the Americas to display a Shark Ray. Sweet Pea was an instant favorite of Aquarium guests and has come to represent all that is still unknown about oceans.

“The Shark Ray, as a species, is a mystery and it faces many challenges. In some ways, you can consider it the ‘panda’ of the aquatic world,” said Mark Dvornak, Newport Aquarium Aquatics Curator. “We are very excited to take these steps forward in marine conservation. Sweet Pea’s success over the last two years is a testament to the dedication of the animal husbandry team at the Newport Aquarium.”

The introduction of the Shark Ray pair to America is only a first step in Newport Aquarium’s conservation work with this species. By working closely with Fred Fan, a highly regarded and visionary fish procurement specialist from Taiwan, Newport Aquarium is initiating the world’s first dedicated Shark Ray Breeding Program. This program, a long-time dream of Fan, is becoming a reality due to the professional dedication and conservation vision shared between Newport Aquarium and Fan.

The program itself is long term, with Newport Aquarium and Fan embarking on a multi-year partnership. During this time, individual Shark Rays will be observed, documented and studied. According to Fan, the Shark Ray Breeding Program is very important to aquarium facilities globally because the world’s fisheries are depleting the ocean’s stocks at a rate faster than they are being replaced.

“I am proud to be associated with Newport Aquarium in this exciting and pioneering program. I firmly believe in the necessity for large scale captive propagation of aquatic species. This program would raise public awareness of this little seen and iconic species as well as further their research and understanding,” said Fan.

The public will have a chance to help name the male Shark Ray in the weeks ahead. With a distinct spotted pattern, the male of the species is easily distinguished from the female. Shark Rays are docile, graceful and look prehistoric with horn-like ridges along their head and back. Very little is known about this extremely rare species (Rhina ancylostoma) that receives its common name because of its flat, rounded underside, resembling rays, and shark-like dorsal fins. Shark Rays are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species because the species is not only rare, but highly desired in Asian markets for human consumption.

Fred Fan Aquatics, Taiwan, specializes in the sustainable supply of aquatic animals. To date at least 98% of all the animals it supplied have been captive raised. It works with aquariums all over the world including the London Aquarium, UK; Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, Japan; and the Berlin Zoo, Germany.

Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of, its staff or its advertisers.

Reader Comments

9 people have commented so far. cloud add your comment

Can you tell me steps what to do when a shark has a baby and when there having a baby. I just got two today 5/31/07 and there swimming around each other and with each other.
   comment# 1   - daniel · fl/new port richey · May 31, 2007 @ 4:26pm

i saw sweet pea she was so pretty i didn't think she was real but when i went there i thought it was so cool
   comment# 2   - scooter · denton usa · Jul 2, 2008 @ 8:18pm

How do they breed a shark and a manta ray. But other than that sweet pea is the coolest
   comment# 3   - casey · eugene, Usa · Aug 19, 2008 @ 10:43pm

I saw Sweet Pea at her 3rd birthday at the "newport Aquarium." She had a cool birthday cake that looked just like Sweet Pea and it was so cool. In the water she had the biggest blow up birthday cake it was so cool. What is the newest sharks name that is going to be in with Sweet Pea is it going to be her boyfriend or her husband which one is it going to be. Peace Out Dogs and Wazup peoples
   comment# 4   - Kristin Morgan Gamble · Salyersville United States · Oct 7, 2008 @ 5:42pm

is there a manta ray in this aquarium
   comment# 5   - rick · columbus · Jan 1, 2010 @ 4:40pm

I love watching shark rays gyrate! it makes me go crazy inside. love you sweet pea make me a little sweet pea!4
   comment# 6   - Adolf Oliver Bush · Philadelphia, United Kingdom · Feb 17, 2010 @ 11:34am

How does a shark ray become into the world do they breed a manta ray with a shark or are they their own species i think shark ras are awesome creatures but how do they birth?
   comment# 7   - Bryce · USA · Jul 25, 2010 @ 12:27pm

how many sharks are in the south pacific....
   comment# 8   - nick POOPER · stupid town · Aug 15, 2010 @ 9:57pm

Sweet Pea was amazing! Its amazing what this the century can come up with and make! Jesus is good
   comment# 9   - Abbey · Evansville IN · Nov 7, 2013 @ 2:22pm
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