Offshore fishing trips often feel like mini expeditions because you never know what you’re going to find and see out there tens or hundreds of miles away from land.
And this is exactly what happens in a family competing in the 2022 Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo off Dauphin Island, Alabama never in a million years expected a majestic and rare Spotted Eagle Ray to jump into their boat. They weren’t fishing for stingrays. Nor would they have ever imagined that Spotted Eagle Ray would then proceed to give birth inside the boat after it leaped from the water and into their boat.
Here’s what April Jones told Fox News:
“We were out fishing off the coast of the Sand Island Lighthouse on Friday and I wasn’t catching anything — but my husband, husband’s father and son all were.”
Jones then decided it was time to try a new location off the coast of Alabama when she suddenly heard a commotion in the boat.
“We were trying to get a fish for me to catch. So I told them I was ready to leave and head to a different spot. We packed everything up — and as we were pulling away, there was a hard hit and a water splash.”
Then, the family turned and saw an estimated 400-pound, seven-foot wide eagle ray on the deck of their boat.
“We thought she’d be able to get herself out of the boat, but due to her weight, she couldn’t get herself out. We tried to get her out, but she weighed too much.”
“She was so heavy that she was also weighing the boat down, and we were getting water in the back of the boat,” she added. The family attempted to make calls but needed to get the ray out of their boat quickly.
“We drove to the closest boat launch, which happened to be where the Dauphin Island Sea Lab was,” the mother added. “I ran into the lab to see if anyone could help get her out. In the meantime, some people had come to the boat and helped her get out.”
Then, the Jones family noticed something even more shocking. Once docked at the boat launch, “we found out she had delivered four babies. We had no idea when she did it. They were not moving.”
More details of this amazing story from Daily Wire:
The family donated the baby eagle rays to the Sea Lab after it was determined they had not survived. Officials said the corpses could be used for educational purposes. The Sea Lab also told the Jones family that if rays “are in any type of stressful situation, they will give birth,” Jones also told Fox News.
The eagle ray likely jumped into the boat in an attempt to get another fish off its back, experts speculated.
“It’s not uncommon for wild animals to release their young when they feel their life is in danger. This is surely an adaptation that gives the parents a better chance at producing offspring and passing along their genes in the population,” Brian Jones, curator of the Alabama Aquarium, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, told Fox News.
The lab curator said that in four decades of work, he has only seen five eagle rays.
Spotted Eagle Rays are classified as a ‘near threatened’ species, and not endangered. The reason they’re classified as ‘near threatened’ is primarily because of ‘low reproductive potential’.
Because they are so rare in nature, it’s uncommon for them to find each other and be able to reproduce in the wild. Obviously, they’re still out there making babies as this one produced 4 but since they aren’t targeted by the fishing industry, it’s a reproduction that really holds them back as a species.