Ray, Smalleyed

Raja microocellata

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Gill or fixed net
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — English Channel
Stock detail — 7d,e
Picture of Ray, Smalleyed

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

The small eyed ray in this area is data-limited. It is unknown if small eyed rays in this area are overfished or undergoing overfishing.

Any ray caught in area 7e must be promptly released. Apart from this, there is no specific management plan for skates and rays in these waters but there is some improved management in inshore waters. 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. Better monitoring is required to understand the population of small eyed rays in this area: sandy ray are often confused with small eyed rays in the landings data.

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.


Small-eyed rays belong to the Rajidae family which includes skates and rays. They are a small to medium sized inshore and coastal species, attaining a maximum length of 80 to 90 cm and weight of 8 kg. Total length at maturity is between 69 and 78 cm. Age at maturity is unknown. Maximum age is 12 years.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

Stock Area

English Channel

Stock information

The small eyed ray in this area is data-limited. It is unknown if small eyed rays in this area are overfished and there are no indicators to determine any trends in biomass. Therefore, there is concern for biomass.

Similarly, there is no information to determine trends in fishing mortality, mainly as there is a lack of discard data. However, landings data are available and show that there has been a reduction in landings between 2015 and 2016-2017. In 2017, ICES species-specific landings minimum estimate based on reported landings was 36 tonnes whilst the landings corresponding to advice 36 tonnes. Therefore, there is no concern for fishing mortality.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

Since 2016, small eyed ray in Division 7.e has been managed under a non-retention policy. However, landings of small eyed ray are still allowed from Division 7.d (and Division 4.c).

There are some issues with landings data. For example, small eyed rays caught in Division 4.c have been attributed to this stock and Sandy ray are often confused with small eyed rays in this area. Fishery-independent surveys have been conducted on the species, thought they are infrequently observed in trawl surveys. Therefore, there is a lack of data for the stock.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Small eyed rays are an occasional bycatch species in the English Channel. It has a patchy distribution, partly because it is found over many types of habitat. Small eyed rays in this area are caught mainly using bottom trawls and fixed nets.

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.

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. Tag-recapture studies suggest show that thornback rays were found to be in a significantly better condition when caught using longlines and tangle nets, compared to when they were captured using otter trawl or drift trammel net. When captured with tangle nets, skate condition was significantly better during shorter (17-28 hours) soak times, compared with (42-48 h soak time)(Ellis et al. 2018). 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).

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.

Small eyed rays are normally found on mixed sediments and rock or hard substrates, therefore, gillnets generally cause low impacts to the habitat, although ghost fishing is reported occasionally.


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. 2018. Small-eyed ray (Raja microocellata) in divisions 7.d and 7.e (English Channel) . Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/rje.27.7de.pdf

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