Good Fish Guide
Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - All applicable methods
Capture area - North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area - North East Atlantic
Stock detail - All Areas
Fish type - White flat fish
The white skate is now very rare in European waters and is assessed as Critically Endangered by IUCN - the International Conservation Union. ICES scientists estimate that white skate is severely depleted and possibly extirpated from most parts of the Celtic Seas. Avoid eating. Since January 2009 it has been prohibited for fishermen to retain, transship or land white skate caught in EU waters, with fishermen required to return all white skate caught to the sea unharmed where possible.
White skates belong to the Rajidae family which includes skates and rays. Rostroraja alba is a large-bodied skate that is known to have occurred in coastal waters of northern Europe. This species is long-lived and late maturing and is highly vulnerable to over-exploitation. Two spawning areas are known, both on the Irish west coast - Tralee Bay and inner Galway Bay - and these are the only known refuges for this species. The white skate is a large coastal and slope species growing to a maximum length of 200cm and weight of 77 kg. Size and age at maturity and maximum age are unknown.
North East Atlantic
New ICES advice shows that the populations are depleted and that there should be zero catches in the following years. White skates are at the northern edge of their range in UK waters. There is evidence that the abundance of white skate has declined dramatically in the Northeast Atlantic and has disappeared from the Irish Sea where it was once targeted commercially. The status of white skate cannot be evaluated in the absence of defined reference points. However, from landings and survey data, ICES estimates that white skate is severely depleted and possibly extirpated from most parts of the Celtic Sea, and there have been no records of this fish in recent scientific groundfish surveys. This species has a patchy and localized distribution and historically was common locally in some inshore areas of the Celtic Sea. ICES describes the extirpation of the species here as a cause of concern, and it is likely to be equally threatened in more southerly European waters, representing a potential loss in the fish diversity in the area. The International Conservation Union (IUCN) lists white skate as "Critically Endangered" in the Northeast Atlantic. It is also an EU Prohibited Species in areas IIa, III, IV, VI, VII, VIII, IX and X - meaning it cannot be targeted, retained, transshipped or landed, requiring them to be returned unharmed, where possible, to the sea.
There is no management plan for this stock or any skate stock in the ICES area. There are however EU prohibitions on fishing for, retaining, transshipping and landing some species, including the most severely depleted species taken as bycatch in mixed demersal fisheries, this includes white skate. This is the highest protection possible under the EUs Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and is a long-term conservation strategy aimed at very depleted and vulnerable species. ICES reviewed the listing of white skate in 2010 and supports it's inclusion on the Prohibited Species List.
Skates and rays form an important component of mixed demersal fisheries, taken as bycatch in beam and otter trawls, in seine fisheries and also in targeted fisheries using lines and set nets. Under current EU legislation it is prohibited to fish for, retain on board, transship or land white skate. Because it is an EU Prohibited Species any animal captured should be returned immediately and unharmed, where possible, to the sea.
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.
ICES Advice 2014, Book 9 http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2016/2016/rja-nea.pdf;
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