Ray, Sandy

Leucoraja circularis

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Gill or fixed net
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. There is a lack of monitoring for the stock. Whilst landings data have improved in recent years, sandy rays are still confused with small eyed rays, and therefore, there is insufficient information to determine if their populations are healthy.

The landing obligation will be fully in place in 2019, which requires that all species with catch limits should be retained. However, skate and rays are exempt from the landing obligation due to their assumed high discard survival rates. There is no specific management plan for skates and rays in these waters. They are managed under a total allowable catch (TAC) for many skates and rays but greater protection is needed. Further management of the species is advised e.g. through fishery closures to allow them to reproduce.

Common bycatch in fixed nets include lesser spotted dogfish, nursehound and Starry ray. Gillnets generally cause low impacts to the habitat, although ghost fishing is reported occasionally.

Biology

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: 1 info

Stock Area

Celtic Sea and West of Scotland

Stock information

The stock status of the Sandy ray in this area is unknown. There is insufficient survey data to determine any trends in their population size. Therefore, there is concern for biomass.

There is a lack of information regarding fishing mortality. Whilst landings data have improved in recent years, there are still considerable issues with the data e.g. sandy ray are often confused with small eyed rays in landings data. Additionally, there is a lack of discard and survival rate data. The estimated landings for the species in recent years has been higher than that advised by ICES: in 2017, an estimated 63 tonnes were landed, whilst ICES advised that no more than 42 tonnes should be landed that year. Therefore, there is concern for fishing mortality.

Management

Criterion score: 0.75 info

There is no direct management plan for skates and rays in these waters. They are usually caught as bycatch in otter and beam trawl fisheries, which target finfish (including flatfish and gadoids).

Skates and rays are managed under five regional quotas (called TACs) which are applied to a group of species, rather than individual skate and ray species. This has been deemed as an unsuitable method for protecting individual species, but species-specific quotas may increase discarding. With the precautionary approach applied, ICES advises that landings should be no more than 34 tonnes in each of the years 2019 and 2020.

The European Commission have considered that skates and rays caught in the Northwest waters (ICES subareas 6 and 7) with all fishing gears, should be exempt from the landing obligation, based on their assumed high survivability rates. However, Member States harvesting the stocks should supply data to STECF to review the effectiveness of the exception and, by the 31 May each year produce a roadmap to increase survivability, fill in the data gaps identified by STECF and produce annual reports on the progress on survivability programmes. Any skates and rays that are discarded are required to be released immediately and below the sea surface. Any vessels fishing using bottom trawls or seines, with catches comprising more than 10% of haddock, cod and skates and rays combined, are required to use, either a) a 120 mm cod-end, or b) an eliminator trawl with 600 mm large mesh panels and a 100 mm cod-end. For vessels fishing using bottom trawls or seines with catches comprising less than 10% of haddock, cod and skates and rays combined, vessels are required to use a cod-end mesh size of 100 mm with a 100 mm squared mesh panel, except for vessels with catches comprising over 30% of Norway lobster. (European Commission 2018b).

Other management methods are currently being considered at an EU level, fishing gear modifications, education, conservation measures (such as closed seasons during spawning times). Some protected areas have been designated in these waters but offshore areas are not sufficiently managed. There are no official minimum landing sizes except for some IFCAs, which, mandate a minimum landing size (40-45 cm disc width) in inshore waters in England and Wales.

Monitoring
ICES conduct assessments for most skate and ray species on a biennial basis. There are a lack of reference points for the stock, which prevents the development of management plans (Mangi et al. 2018). Data-limited approaches have been used (using some survey and landings data) but there are important information gaps. Projects including the Fisheries Science Partnership, Sustainable Management of rays and Skates (SUMARiS), National Evaluation of Populations of Threatened and Uncertain Elasmobranch Stocks (NEPTUNE) have been collecting data to close these data gaps. Data collection has improved, however, landings data are not considered accurate enough to be used to determine if the level of fishing pressure is at safe levels. Landings data has improved in recent years, though there are still considerable issues with landings data as sandy ray is often confused with small eyed ray.

Enforcement
Surveillance legislation is underpinned by EU Law, which require that 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. There is direct management of fishing effort for vessels since 2003, which allocates effort in kW-days to vessels of >15 m. However, the inshore (smaller) fleets are generally not managed by effort to the same extent. Also add: Reductions in TAC are considered to have been effective for reducing landings in Cuckoo rays (ICES 2018).

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

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

Bycatch
Common bycatch in fixed nets include lesser spotted dogfish, nursehound and Starry ray. However, catches in gillnets are often not monitored and they are not very selective gear. Therefore, the net can interact with a wide range of fish, skates and rays, invertebrates, birds and marine mammals

Discards
The landing obligation will be fully implemented into our seas from 2019. Skates and rays will be exempt from the landing obligation, due to their higher likelihood of survival when discarded. Member states will be required to report on skate and ray catches and discards, and any improvements in selectivity programmes. it’s difficult to avoid catching skates and rays in nets and because of their peculiar shape and size; it’s also difficult for them to escape the net once captured. Therefore, selectivity programmes are in place reduce skate and rays catches and their survival rates. Discard rates of skates and rays vary dramatically (30 - 70%), depending on the marketability and management measures in place. For example, nearly all skates below 30 cm LT are discarded by English vessels (Silva et al., 2012). Bycatch can include juvenile skate as they can hatch from their egg cases at sizes of 10-20 cm LT and therefore, may be able to escape through the nets (Ellis et al. 2018). Their survival rates upon discarding is extremely variable, depending on the fishing and handling methods used to capture them. Elasmobranchs have the potential for relatively high survival rates because they do not have swim bladders (and thereby are not as impacted by pressure changes), they can have thick and abrasive skins and thorns (which protect them) and some have spiracles and a buccal-pump respiratory which excrete a mucus, which allows the skate or ray to ventilate and acquire oxygen when out of the water (Ellis et al. 2018). Inshore and coastal fisheries using trawls, longlines, gillnets and tangle nets generally show low at-vessel mortality. There are a lack of studies available on long-term skate and ray survival when they are released into the wild (Ellis et al. 2018).

Habitat
Gillnets generally cause low impacts to the habitat, although ghost fishing is reported occasionally. When captured with tangle nets, the condition of skates are significantly better during shorter (17-28 hours) soak times, compared with (42-48 h soak time)(Ellis et al. 2018).

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

Ellis, J. R., Burt, G.J., Grilli, G., McCully Phillips, S.R., Catchpole, T.L., Maxwell, D.L. 2018. At-vessel mortality of skates (Rajidae) taken in coastal fisheries and evidence of longer-term survival. Journal of Fish Biology. 92, 1702-1719. doi:10.1111/jfb.13597

Mangi, S., Kupschus, S., Mackinson, S., Rodmell, D., Lee, A., Bourke, E., Rossiter, T., Masters, J., Hetherington, S., Catchpole, T. and Righton, D. 2018. Progress in designing and delivering effective fishing industry science data collection in the UK. Fish 00:1-21. https://doi.org/10.1111/faf.12279

ICES. 2018. Sandy ray (Leucoraja circularis) in subareas 6-7 (West of Scotland, southern Celtic Seas, English Channel) . 31 October 2018 . Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/rji.27.67.pdf