Common Skate - Dipturus batis

Status: Critically Endangered … A Common Skate reaches maturity at 11 years old and, if lucky, may live to be 100

Type: Fish (Elasmobranch)

Location: European waters, occasionally reported from around the UK but appears range now limited to North West Scotland, the Shetland Isles and the Celtic Sea.

Size: Can reach 2.8m long and 100kg (200lb)

Habitat: Ocean bed, 200m - 600m deep.

Main Threats:
Sadly, there is no longer anything common about the common skate. Once abundant, this ‘manta ray of the north’ has become very rare in UK shallow seas and in European waters. Decades of overfishing have damaged miles of delicate seabed habitats that fish such as this rely on. And the common skate has a very low resilience to fishing pressure - its large body size means that it can be caught in fishing nets even from birth.

Fortunately, landing common skate, also known as Blue skate or Grey skate, is now prohibited in EU waters. Since 2009, all these skate caught in the EU must be returned to the sea unharmed where possible. 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. However, there are no designated sites in the North Sea to protect common skate. We’re calling for this and for a ban on damaging fishing gears in enough MPAs to restore common skate habitats to sustainable levels.

The common skate is often seen travelling in groups of the same sex and age, close to the sea floor. They usually mate in the spring and during copulation there is a distinct embrace between the couple. The female then lays long oblong egg capsules, which are anchored into the muddy or sandy substrate by their stiff pointed horns. One female will lay around 40 eggs in one year. Males only reach sexual maturity once they have reached a length of 150 centimetres, which usually happens at around 10 or 11 years of age. If lucky, it’s believed this species can live up to 100 years.

Did you know?

What MCS is doing:

Back to the list