Ruiz-García, D., Adams, K., Brown, H. et al. 2020. Determining stingray movement patterns in a wave-swept coastal zone using a blimp for continuous aerial video surveillance. Fishes 5(4), 31.
Stingrays play a key role in the regulation of nearshore ecosystems. However, their movement ecology in high-energy surf areas remains largely unknown due to the notorious difficulties in conducting research in these environments. Using a blimp as an aerial platform for video surveillance, we overcame some of the limitations of other tracking methods, such as the use of tags and drones. This novel technology offered near-continuous coverage to characterise the fine-scale movements of stingrays in a surf area in Kiama, Australia, without any invasive procedures. A total of 98 stingray tracks were recorded, providing 6 h 27 min of movement paths. The tracking data suggest that stingrays may use a depth gradient located in the sandflat area of the bay for orientating their movements and transiting between locations within their home range. Our research also indicates that stingray behaviour was influenced by diel periods and tidal states. We observed a higher stingray occurrence during the afternoon, potentially related to foraging and anti-predatory strategies. We also saw a reduced route fidelity during low tide, when the bathymetric reference was less accessible due to stranding risk. Considering the increasing threat of anthropogenic development to nearshore coastal environments, the identification of these patterns can better inform the management and mitigation of threats.