Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Norwegian Sea, Skagerrak, Kattegat and North Sea
Stock detail — 2, 3a, 4
Updated: December 2019.
This stock is data limited. The stock status is unknown and the stock size indicator has continuously declined since the 1990s. The EU have designated starry ray as a Prohibited Species in areas 2a, 3a, 4 and 7d. This means that fishermen are prohibited from targeting, retaining, transhipping or landing starry ray in these areas. As it is illegal to catch starry ray in this area, this assessment is a critical fail and scores a default red rating. A zero total allowable catch (TAC) has been implemented since 2015. 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. Bottom trawling has the potential to cause significant impact to habitat, such as removing or destroying physical features and reducing biota and habitat complexity.
Starry rays belong to the Rajidae family which includes skates and rays. Starry rays are a medium sized species attaining a maximum length of about 105cm. Males and females mature at a length of about 40cm (between 4 and 5 years old). The species has a maximum recorded age of 16 years.
Criterion score: Critical fail info
Norwegian Sea, Skagerrak, Kattegat and North Sea
The stock status is unknown and the stock size indicator has continuously declined since the 1990s. ICES cannot assess the stock and exploitation status relative to maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and precautionary approach (PA) reference points because the reference points are undefined. It is prohibited for Union fishing vessels and third-country vessels to fish for, to retain on board, to tranship or to land starry ray in Union waters in this area. ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, there should be zero catches in each of the years 2020-2023. The precautionary buffer would also have been applied to the landings advice if this had been above zero. As it is illegal to catch starry ray in this area, this assessment is a critical fail and scores a default red rating.
Survey indices have declined since 1990, following the previous increase between 1970 and 1990. Since legal obligations to declare most demersal elasmobranchs to species level were introduced, a greater proportion of the data have been reported to this level, but data remains incomplete. For the starry ray, a zero total allowable catch (TAC) has been implemented since 2015. Starry ray has a low resilience to fishing pressure.
There is no species-specific management plan for this stock. The EU have designated starry ray as a Prohibited Species in areas 2a, 3a, 4 and 7d. This means that fishermen are prohibited from targeting, retaining, transhipping or landing starry ray in these areas.
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 method of management has been deemed as unsuitable for protecting individual species but species-specific quotas may increase discarding. 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.
In the European Union (EU), EU fishing vessels can fish up to 12 nautical miles of any Member State coast, and closer by agreement. There is overarching fisheries legislation for all Member States, but implementation varies between fisheries, Member States and sea basins.
The EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the primary overarching policy. Its key environmental objectives are to restore and maintain harvested species at healthy levels (above BMSY), and apply the precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management. To achieve the MSY objective, the MSY exploitation rate is supposed to be achieved by 2020, but this seems unlikely to happen.
The CFP also introduced a Landing Obligation (LO) which bans the discarding at sea of species which are subject to catch limits. Some exemptions apply to species with high post-capture survival, and where avoiding unwanted catches is very difficult. These exemptions are outlined in regional discard plans. Despite quota ‘uplift’ being granted to fleets under the LO, available evidence suggests there has been widespread non-compliance with the policy, and illegal and unreported discarding is likely occurring.
Multi-Annual Plans (MAPs) are a tool for implementing the CFP regionally, with one in place or being developed for each sea basin. They specify fishing mortality targets and ranges for the main targeted species, as well as lower biomass reference points. If populations drop below these points it should trigger a management response. The MAPs also empower Member States to jointly apply measures such as closures, gear or capacity limits, and bycatch limits. There is concern however that the MAPs do not provide adequate safeguards to maintain all stocks at healthy levels. This stock is not covered by the North Sea MAP.
The EU Technical Measures regulation addresses how, where and when fishing can take place in order to limit unwanted catches and ecosystem impacts. There are common measures that apply to all EU sea basins, and regional measures that vary between sea basins. Measures include Minimum Conservation Reference Sizes (MCRS, previously Minimum Landing Sizes, MLS), gear specifications, mesh sizes, closed areas, and bycatch limits.
The Control Regulation, which is being revised in 2019, addresses application of and compliance with the above, e.g. keeping catches within limits, recording and sharing data, and satellite tracking of vessels over 12 metres (VMS).
Starry ray are a bycatch species in bottom trawl fisheries and are normally discarded. They are widespread in the Central and Northern North Sea. Starry ray is generally found in cool, deep waters in muddy and sandy substrates. Discarding is known to occur but has not been quantified, and discard survival has not been estimated.
There is a lack of information available on other bycatch species. In the North Sea, common bycatch in bottom trawls include mixed crabs, urchins, lesser spotted dogfish, nursehound, dragonet, starry ray, smelt. Endangered, Threatened and Protected (ETP) species include 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.
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 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 are discarded by English vessels. Bycatch can include juvenile skate as they can hatch from their egg cases at sizes of 10-20 cm and therefore, may be able to escape through the nets. Their survival rates upon discarding is extremely variable, depending on the fishing and handling methods used to capture them.
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 how accustomed the seabed is to natural disturbance.
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)
Sole, Dover sole, Common sole
Turbot (Caught at sea)
ReferencesICES. 2019. Starry ray (Amblyraja radiata) in subareas 2 and 4, and Division 3.a (Norwegian Sea, North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, rjr.27.23a4. Available at https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.4841. [Accessed on 06.12.2019].
ICES. 2019. Working Group on Elasmobranch Fishes (WGEF). ICES Scientific Reports. 1:25. 964 pp. Available at http://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.5594 [Accessed on 06.12.2019]
European Union, 2019. Council Regulation (EU) 2019/124 of 30 January 2019. Fixing for 2019 the fishing opportunities for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks, applicable in Union waters and, for Union fishing vessels, in certain non-Union waters. Available at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/reg/2019/124/oj [Accessed on 06.12.2019].
Ellis, J. R., Burt, G.J., Grilli, G., McCully Phillips, S.R., Catchpole, T.L. and 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. Available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324649838_At-vessel_mortality_of_skates_Rajidae_taken_in_coastal_fisheries_and_evidence_of_longer-term_survival [Accessed on 03.12.2019].
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Sguotti, C., Lynam, C. P., Garcia-Carreras, B., Ellis, J. R. and Engelhard, G. H. 2016. Distribution of skates and sharks in the North Sea: 112 years of change. Glob Change Biol, 22: 2729-2743. doi:10.1111/gcb.13316. Available at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/gcb.13316 [Accessed 06.12.2019].
Engelhard GH, Lynam CP, Garcia-Carreras B, Dolder PJ, Mackinson S. 2015. Effort reduction and the large fish indicator: spatial trends reveal positive impacts of recent European fleet reduction schemes. Environmental Conservation, 42, 227-236. Available at https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/environmental-conservation/article/effort-reduction-and-the-large-fish-indicator-spatial-trends-reveal-positive-impacts-of-recent-european-fleet-reduction-schemes/51F818E4D54DD96E00B7450F5F4E408A [Accessed on 06.12.2019].
Shephard, S. Reid, D.G.,Gerritsen, H.D, Farnsworth, K.D. Estimating biomass, fishing mortality, and total allowable discards for surveyed non-target fish, ICES Journal of Marine Science, Volume 72, Issue 2, 1 January 2015, Pages 458-466. Available at https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsu146 [Accessed on 06.12.2019].
Froese R. and Pauly D. (Editors), 2015. Amblyraja radiata. Starry ray. Available: https://www.fishbase.se/summary/Amblyraja-radiata.html. [Accessed on 06.12.2019].