Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - All applicable methods
Capture area - North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area - North Sea, Skagerrak, Kattegat, and Eastern English Channel
Stock detail - IV, IIIa and VIId
Fish type - White flat fish
Abundance of spotted rays in this region appear to be increasing and the stock currently fished at a sustainable level. However, these fisheries are not considered fully sustainable as there is a lack of species specific management. As one of the smaller and less valuable species in the skate complex, it is not targeted and a relatively high proportion of the catch may be discarded.
Spotted rays belong to the Rajidae family which includes skates and rays. Spotted rays are a small to medium sized inshore and coastal shelf species attaining a maximum length of 80cm and weight of 4kg. Males mature at a length of about 54cm and females at about 57cm (both between 3 to 8 years old). The species has a maximum recorded age of 14 years.
North Sea, Skagerrak, Kattegat, and Eastern English Channel
The state of the stock in this area is unknown. ICES has not defined reference points for this stock and there is no analytical assessment presented for it. Abundance for this stock is however estimated to be increasing. ICES advice given in 2012 for this stock is valid for 2013 to 2015 and is that catches could be increased by a maximum of 20%. The International Conservation Union (IUCN) assessed spotted ray populations as being fished sustainably in the northeast Atlantic and to be of Least Concern.
There is no specific management plan for demersal elasmobranchs and no management plan for this stock or any skate stock in the ICES area. Given the regional differences in skate assemblages and fisheries, ICES recommends that management measures for elasmobranchs be devloped on a case-by-case basis. Currently these species are managed under a common Total Allowable Catch (TAC). There is a combined TAC in place for all species of skate and ray in the North and Norwegian Seas. Previously there was no requirement to report species of skate and ray individually so they were reported together as 'skates and rays', which makes it difficult for scientists to evaluate the stock status of different skate and ray species. However, from 2008 EU countries must report species specific landings of major skate and ray species in the North Sea and Norwegian Sea, so that in the future scientists will be able to advise on species specific catches. There are also prohibitions on fishing for, retaining and landing some species, including the most severely depleted species taken as bycatch in mixed demersal fisheries. ICES does not advise that general or species specific TACs be established at present because they are not the most effective means to regulate these bycatch species. TACs alone may not adequately protect these species as there are differences amongst species in their vulnerabilities to exploitation and a restrictive TAC may lead to discarding. Instead seasonal and/or area closures, effort restrictions and measures to protect spawning grounds for example are recommended. In 2007, Fisheries Science Partnership projects (fishermen and scientists working together) were conducted to investigate discard survival rates in trawl fisheries to find out the survival rate for skates and rays that would be discarded with the introduction of a maximum landing length. The projects also aimed to develop species identification onboard and contribute to improved data collection. The Skate and Ray Producers Association has recently been working to improve the lack of species specific data by reporting their catches by species, into a central database. This follows previous collaborative work with the Shark Trust and Seafish Industry Authority, to produce an identification guide to help distinguish different species.
Skates and rays form an important component of mixed demersal fisheries, taken as bycatch in beam and otter trawls, in seine fisheries and also in targeted fisheries using lines and set nets. Also targeted by sea anglers. No Minimum Landing Size (MLS) is specified for skates and rays in EU waters outside 6 miles. MLS specified in some coastal waters of England and Wales, e.g. Kent and Essex Sea Fisheries District, 40cm (wing to wing), South Wales 45cm, Cumbria SFC 45cm. Under EU Regulation 850/98 a minimum mesh size of 22cm is required for gillnets targeting rays and skates (those catching <70% skates and rays) in the Celtic Sea (Subareas VI and VII). Bycatch of marine mammals and other non-target species can be problematic in fixed-net fisheries. However, use of management measures, including acoustic devices called 'pingers', can help reduce bycatch of marine mammals. See Fishing Methods for more details. As one of the smaller and less valuable species in the skate complex, it is not targeted and a relatively high proportion of the catch may be discarded.
ICES Advice 2014, Book 6 http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2014/2014/rjm-347d.pdf
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