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; Celtic Sea and West of Scotland
Stock detail - IIIa,IV, VIId, VIII a,b,d, VIIIc and VI, 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. Retaining and landing common skate is now 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. It is also currently on the EU Prohibited Species List. 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.
Kattegat, Skagerrak, North Sea and English Channel; 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 now 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 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 MMO (Marine Management Organisation) 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 current EU legislation, where a directed fishery for skates takes place, a mesh size in the cod-end of no less than 28cm is required and no less than 22cm in the rest of the trawl. 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. There is a potential for damage to the seabed from trawling. Trawling is also associated with discarding of unwanted fish, i.e. undersized and/or non-quota and/or over-quota species.
ICES 2012 Book 5,6 and 7. Shark Trust ID Guide Factsheet www.sharktrust.org
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