Ray, Spotted

Raja montagui

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

6, 7b,j


Picture of Ray, Spotted

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

The stock status is unknown. Spotted Ray populations in this area are estimated to be decreasing but are still above a 5-year average. Fishing mortality is unknown but landings have increased recently and are well above landings advised by ICES. As one of the smaller and less valuable species in the skate complex, it is not targeted and a relatively high proportion of the catch may be discarded. Their survival is heavily dependent on responsible handling and fishing methods.

There is no specific management plan for skates and rays 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.

Demersal otter trawling is also associated with discarding of unwanted fish and potential ETP species but can be reduced with appropriate gear modifications.

Biology

Spotted rays belong to the Rajidae family which includes skates and rays. Spotted rays are a small to medium sized inshore and coastal shelf species attaining a maximum length of 80cm and weight of 4kg. Males mature at a length of about 54cm and females at about 57cm (both between 3 to 8 years old). The species has a maximum recorded age of 14 years. Female Spotted rays lay their egg cases in shallow water in early summer from April through to July.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

Stock Area

West of Scotland and Southwest Ireland

Stock information

The state of the stock in this area is unknown. Spotted Ray populations in this area have increased over time but has recently started to decrease. Therefore, scientists advise that landings should be reduced to 67 tonnes in each of 2017 and 2018. Yet, recent landings have been as high as 119 tonnes (2015 landings).

Management

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 such as the Offshore Overfalls MCZ which is designated partly to protect the undulate ray’s nursery areas. The inshore waters, such as the Isle of White SAC, ensure management, which may provide protection for various life stages e.g. undulate rays. Although the connectivity of these species is unknown and therefore, these waters need sufficient management and protection to prevent over-exploitation of these animals and their habitats.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

Spotted ray in this area is almost exclusively caught by otter trawls and are normally caught as a bycatch species.

Bycatch
There is a lack of information available on other bycatch species but in the southern North sea, common bycatch in bottom trawls include mixed crabs, urchins, lesser spotted dogfish, nursehound, dragonet, starry ray, smelt. ETP species including Angel shark and Common skate (both critically endangered (IUCN)) which were depleted through fishing in this area. Invertebrates such as crabs and urchins are vulnerable to damage.

Discards
Because 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.

Habitat
Bottom trawling has the potential to cause significant impact to habitat such as removing or destroying physical features and reducing biota and habitat complexity. Therefore, the recovery time of the seabed after trawling varies greatly and depends on the fishing gear, the substrate, intensity of the trawl and accustomed the seabed is to natural disturbance. Fishing occurs over a mixture of seafloor types. IFCAs ensure bottom trawling occurs in areas where there will be minimal damage to habitats such as mobile sands, however, in offshore areas, bottom trawling can occur over vulnerable habitats.

Alternatives

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.

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

References

ICES 2016. Spotted ray (Raja montagui) in Subarea 6 and divisions 7.b and 7.j (West of Scotland, west and southwest of Ireland). Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2016/2016/rjm-67bj.pdf