MBA scientists recently published a correspondence in Nature describing apparent landings of the critically endangered common skate (Dipturus batis) across different UK ports between 2011 and 2014 amounting to 9.6 tonnes despite an EU-wide ban being in place since 2009. These figures were buried in the official UK landings data for species-specific skate landings data. The figures only came to light after writing a data request to the UK Marine Management Organisation since the data is not readily available to download from their website.
The common skate (pictured) is the world’s largest skate species, approaching 3 m long and 100 kg. Common in European coastal and shelf habitats up until the late 19th Century, it was largely extirpated from much of its former range by the 1970s and is now classified ‘Critically Endangered’ on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with a European Commission total ban on its retention, landing and sale.
In the letter David Sims and PhD student Samantha Simpson question the reliability of these figures. Do they represent a critically endangered species being illegally landed and sold in various UK ports, or are the landings the result of errors in species identification or a mix-up in the codes used at market?
Without appropriate verification of skate landings to species level it is impossible to know whether the common skate is being illegally fished by UK vessels or no
t. Accurate data is key to managing fish populations, especially so for endangered species.
Originally published by the Marine Biological Association of the UK here.