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.
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?
- They have between 40 and 56 rows of teeth.
- This is the largest species of skate.
- Skates will “fly” up from the sea bed and wrap themselves round fish before eating them.
- Baby skate hatches from an egg case called a Mermaid’s Purse.
What MCS is doing:
- Advising the fishing industry on fishing methods that reduce bycatch;
- Asking chefs and restaurants, consumers and retailers to avoid buying or eating common skate;
- Campaigning for better management of marine protected areas in UK seas to protect common skate and their habitats from damaging activities.