Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - All applicable methods
Capture area - North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area - All Areas
Stock detail - IVc and VIId,e;VI,VIIa,f,g and VIIe;Ixa
Fish type - White flat fish
This is one of the larger-bodied, moderately long-lived skate species.This species is potentially vulnerable to exploitation because it matures at a large size and produces relatively few young. As a result, juvenile and immature fish can be overfished before they have had a chance to breed.
Blonde ray are an inshore species belonging to the Rajidae family of skates and rays. Male blonde rays can grow to a length of 120cm, while females can reach 125 cm, and an age of about 15 years. Both males and females mature at 90 to 95cm in length and 5 to 6 years old. Found on sand and rock bottoms down to about 100m depth. Relatively few eggs are produced, meaning that few juveniles will be produced each year. In the English Channel, females with well-developed eggs occur from February to August. Eggs are laid in cases known as "mermaids purses".
The state of the stock in these areas is unknown and there is insufficient information to present trends in species-specific landings for this stock.No specific management objectives are known to ICES. Blonde ray has a patchy occurrence in the North Sea. It is at the edge of its distributional range in this area. Using landings and catch data, ICES scientists are uncertain about the state of the stock which occurs mostly in the southern North Sea, and has a patchy occurrence in the eastern English Channel. The patchy distribution of this species makes it difficult for scientists to interpret survey data, and its tendency to form aggregations makes it vulnerable to localized depletion. 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. Blonde ray is assessed as Near Threatened by IUCN - The World Conservation Union. ICES advises that catches should be decreased by at least 20% in all of these areas. However, as species-specific landings data are not complete, it is not possible to quantify the current catch. Scientists recommend management measures such as closed areas/seasons or effort restrictions to better protect demersal elasmobranchs. In particular, measures to protect spawning/nursery grounds would be beneficial.
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.
Demersal elasmobranchs in these regions are caught in mixed target and non-target fisheries. TACs alone may not adequately protect these stocks as restrictive TACs may lead to high discarding. 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 that are here. The species is lso targeted by sea anglers. There is no Minimum Landing Size (MLS) specified for skates and rays in EU waters outside 6 miles. MLS is specified in some coastal waters of England and Wales, e.g. in Kent and Essex Sea Fisheries District, 40cm (wing to wing), South Wales 45cm, Cumbria SFC 45cm. 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 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 5,6 and 7.
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