Ray, Sandy

Leucoraja circularis

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Celtic Sea and West of Scotland
Stock detail

6 and 7

Picture of Ray, Sandy

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

The stock status of Sandy Ray in this area is unknown because of the lack of species-specific landings data and its low appearance in scientific surveys.

Scientific advice for this species in this area is to reduce landings by 20% in 2017 and 2018. As well as being fished in mainly otter trawl fisheries and gillnets on the outer continental shelf it is also a bycatch species in longline fisheries for deep-water fish which are generally vulnerable to exploitation. There is a lack of information about discards in the fishery and there is not enough information about their population sizes from surveys. Therefore, more information is needed about population sizes and discard rates to manage the fishery effectively.

There is no specific management plan for skates and rays in these waters but there is some improved management in inshore waters. They are managed under a total allowable catch (TAC) for many skates and rays but greater protection is needed, for example through seasonal and/or area closures.

Demersal otter trawling is also associated with discarding of unwanted fish and occasionally catch endangered species but capture rates can be reduced by adapting the fishing gear.


Sandy rays belong to the Rajidae family which includes skates and rays. The sandy ray is a medium sized offshore species growing to a maximum length of 120 cm. Size and age at maturity and maximum age is unknown.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

Stock Area

Celtic Sea and West of Scotland

Stock information

The stock status of Sandy Ray in this area is unknown because of the lack of species-specific landings data and its low appearance in scientific surveys.

Scientists advise that landings should be reduced by 20% again in 2017 and 2018 to 42t in each of the years. Discarding occurs, although the likelihood of survival is high, assuming responsible fishing and handling methods.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

There are no management plans or objectives for this species. Skates and rays are managed under five regional quotas (called TACs) applied to a group of species. This has been deemed as an unsuitable method for protecting individual species, but species-specific quotas may not be suitable because it may increase unnecessary discarding of skates and rays.

Other management methods are currently being considered at an EU level. Methods to avoid catching rays include closed areas and seasons and modifying fishing gear to observe their escape behaviour and design fishing gear accordingly. However, it is difficult to avoid catching rays in fishing gear (because of their peculiar shape) so fishing gear modifications have been suggested to improve the potential survival of rays so that they can be quickly and safely discarded.

There is no official minimum landing size for many skates and rays outside the 6 nautical mile limit in European waters. However, some inshore areas mandate a minimum landing size (40-45 cm disc width). There is direct management of fishing effort, depending on fishing gear, mesh size and area, however, this only applies to vessels of >15 m and therefore, inshore (generally smaller) fleets are generally not effort managed to the same extent. There are catch composition rules limit the percentage of skates that can be landed by demersal otter trawls (dependent on the mesh size of the net).

More information is needed on skate and ray catches, discard and survival rates. Landings data doesn’t tell scientists much about the health of the stock. The Fisheries Science Partnership project connects fishermen and scientists to fill in important knowledge gaps.

Surveillance legislation is underpinned by EU Law, and requires all vessels above 12m in length use vessel monitoring systems (VMS), and mandate at-sea and aerial surveillance and inspections of vessels, logbooks and sales documents.

Some protected areas have been designated in these waters but offshore areas are not sufficiently managed. Some of these MPAs are designated to protect rays but more management and protection is required to prevent over-exploitation of these animals and their habitats.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Sandy ray is a bycatch species which is caught in otter trawl and gillnet fisheries which target hake, anglerfish, and megrim.

Otter trawls are not a very selective gear.

The catch may include a large variety of species such as various soles, plaice, monkfish, haddock, cod, John Dory, red gurnard, horse mackerel, boar fish and grey gurnard, skates, rays and starry smooth-hound.

ETP species can occasionally be caught such as common skate and spurdog in offshore otter trawl fisheries but it is illegal to land these species.

Since skate and rays are a peculiar shape and size, it is difficult for them to escape from fishing gear once caught. Therefore, other methods must be used to increase their likelihood for survival: Skates and rays are generally a hardly species but their survival rate after discarding is extremely variable depending on fishing and handling methods: discard survival varied between 25%-100% in beam trawl surveys. However, in this specific area, discarding rates and survival is unknown. As part of the cod-recovery plan trawlers have Square Mesh Panels (SMPs) which allows bycatch species to escape the nets including dogfish. Dogfish have really rough skin which harms other species in the net. By allowing them to escape, it means that skates and rays are more likely to be discarded alive. Discards of other species may include undersized or unmarketable fish or because they are choke species. Discards rates vary dramatically (30 - 70%)

IFCAs ensure bottom trawling occurs in areas where there will be minimal damage to habitats such as mobile sands.


Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Halibut, Atlantic (Farmed)
Halibut, Pacific
Sole, Dover sole, Common sole
Sole, Lemon
Turbot (Caught at sea)
Turbot (Farmed)


ICES 2016. Sandy ray (Leucoraja circularis) in subareas 6-7 (West of Scotland, southern Celtic Seas, English Channel). Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2016/2016/rji-celt.pdf