DNA barcoding potentially offers scientists who are not expert taxonomists a powerful tool to support the accuracy of field studies involving taxa that are diverse and difficult to identify. The taxonomy of rays has received reasonable attention in Australia, although the fauna in remote locations such as Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia is poorly studied and the identification of some species in the field is problematic. Here, we report an application of DNA-barcoding to the identification of 16 species (from 10 genera) of tropical rays as part of an ecological study. Analysis of the dataset combined across all samples grouped sequences into clearly defined operational taxonomic units, with two conspicuous exceptions: the Neotrygon kuhlii species complex and the Aetobatus species complex. In the field, the group that presented the most difficulties for identification was the spotted whiptail rays, referred to as the 'uarnak' complex. Two sets of problems limited the successful application of DNA barcoding: (1) the presence of cryptic species, species complexes with unresolved taxonomic status and intra-specific geographical variation, and (2) insufficient numbers of entries in online databases that have been verified taxonomically, and the presence of lodged sequences in databases with inconsistent names. Nevertheless, we demonstrate the potential of the DNA barcoding approach to confirm field identifications and to highlight species complexes where taxonomic uncertainty might confound ecological data.