The authorities have been urged to offer protection for the Bull ray 'flying fish', whose number is declining.
Nature Trust - FEE Malta and Sharklab Malta said that as is the case with many other species in the Mediterranean,the Bull ray risks becoming extinct.
It is currently listed as data deficient on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list, which means it is so rare for people to see that there is no data on it.
Bull rays have a diamond-shaped outline and resemble the Eagle ray but have blue stripes across their back. They fly through the water, skimming the bottom, moving their wings like a bird.
Sharklab recorded the first sighting of a Bull ray in Maltese waters less than 10 years ago and is a founder of an international research project.
Very little is known about Bull rays but this project is identifying and cataloguing Bull ray sightings in Malta, the Azores, Canary Islands, South Africa and Portugal, with more countries joining the project each year. The project identifies individuals using the blue striped markings on their dorsal surface. This project is funded by National Geographic and the Oceanario de Lisboa.
“We believe that Malta is a nursery area for Bull rays as juveniles have been seen here, in many of the sandy bays around the island. They are vulnerable as they live in relatively shallow waters 1-30 metres and they are slow-moving,” the two NGOs said in their joint statement as they urged the local environment authorities to afford the species special protection.
Only last week, members of Sharklab-Malta noted a diver with a harpoon killing a Bull ray in the Mellieħa Bay beneath the hotel area. The person reacted indifferently when members of the NGO approached him to bring up the conservation problems this animal faces, the NGOs said.