Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - All applicable methods
Capture area - North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area - North Sea and Skagerrak; Celtic Sea and West of Scotland
Stock detail - IV and IIIa; VI and VIIa-c,e-j
Fish type - White flat fish
The common skate belies its name as it is becoming very rare in UK shallow seas and in European waters. The life history and demography of this species means that it has a very low resilience to fishing pressure, and its large body size means that it can be fished even from birth. As an EU Prohibited Species fishing for, retaining or landing common skate is prohibited in EU waters. Common skate is assessed as Critically Endangered by IUCN - World Conservation Union and is also listed by OSPAR as a threatened and declining species. Avoid Eating.
Common skates belong to the Rajidae family which includes skates and rays. The common skate is the largest European batoid fish (flat elasmobranch fish with the pectoral fins fused to the sides of the head). Females can reach lengths of about 280cm and males about 200cm. Males mature at a length of about 125cm and females at about 180cm (both at over 10 years old). The species can live from 20 up to 100 years.
North Sea and Skagerrak; Celtic Sea and West of Scotland
The common skate belies its name, as it is becoming very rare in UK shallow seas and in European waters. Once one of the most abundant rajids in the northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean, common skate is now endangered and extirpated from many areas. The status of common skate here cannot be evaluated in the absence of defined reference points. However, based on landings data and information from scientific surveys, ICES suggests that common skate in both the Celtic and North Seas is depleted; once widely distributed in the Irish Sea, it is now only rarely found here, instead it is mostly found off northwest Scotland, west of Ireland and in deeper waters of the Celtic Sea (southeast Ireland, Little Sole, Great Sole), with some individuals in the shallow coastal areas of the western English Channel and the Bristol Channel. Since 2009 Dipturus batis species (which includes common, flapper and blue skate) are listed as EU prohibited species and cannot be targeted, retained, transhiped or landed. This applies to areas IIa, III, IV, VI, VII, VIII, IX and X and requires all skate caught to be returned to the sea unharmed where possible. The IUCN Red List assessment for this species is Critically Endangered (2006). Common skate is also the subject of a Biodiversity Action Plan. The Plan aims to stabilise populations by minimising fishing mortality and legally protect it in at least 5 key areas. Common Skate is also listed by OSPAR as a threatened and declining species.
There is no management plan for this stock or any skate stock in the ICES area. There are however EU prohibitions on fishing for, retaining, transhipping and landing some species, including the most severely depleted species taken as bycatch in mixed demersal fisheries, this includes common skate. This is the highest protection possible under the EUs Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and is a long-term conservation strategy aimed at very depleted and vulnerable species. ICES has evaluated the inclusion of common skate as a prohibited species and has concluded that the stock should be removed from the Prohibited Species List.
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. Under current EU legislation it is prohibited to fish for, retain on board, tranship or land common skate. Because it is an EU Prohibited Species any animal captured should be returned immediately and unharmed, where possible, to the sea.
ICES 2014 Book 5 and 6. http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2014/2014/rjb-celt.pdf; http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2014/2014/rjb_34.pdf; Shark Trust ID Guide Factsheet www.sharktrust.org
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