Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - All applicable methods
Capture area - North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area - Kattegat, Skagerrak, North Sea and English Channel
Stock detail - IV, IIIa, VIId
Fish type - White flat fish
Spotted rays in this region are one of the few species of skate and ray that appear to be currently fished at a sustainable level. However, these fisheries are not considered fully sustainable as there is a lack of species specific management. Skates and rays are inherently vulnerable to overfishing due to slow growth rates, late maturation and low fecundity. Avoid eating skates and rays unless you are certain they are one of the smaller, more sustainable species. Avoid eating these species below the size at which they mature. For spotted rays, males mature at a length of about 54cm and females at about 57cm (both between 3 to 8 years old).
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.
Kattegat, Skagerrak, North Sea and English Channel
The stock status of spotted ray in this area cannot be evaluated in the absence of defined reference points, but using landings and catch data ICES scientists estimate that abundance is increasing. Advice for 2013 is that catches could be increased by 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. 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 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.
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. This species is routinely landed under a general category of 'skate and rays', however recently the Marine Fisheries Agency (MFA) has issued a new instruction and guidance for fishermen and merchants to record all individual species of skates and rays around England and Wales, to help build an accurate picture of stocks of skates and rays here. 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). 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. 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.
ICES 2012 Book 6
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