Species composition of skates (Rajidae) in commercial fisheries around the British Isles and their discarding patterns

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Abstract:

Recent regulations have required European nations to report commercial landings of Rajidae (skates) to species level since 2008. Morphological similarities between some species, variability in colouration and regional differences in common names may compromise the accuracy of some of these data. An increased proportion of rajid landings reported by the U.K. (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) are now reported to species level (42% in 2008, rising to 92% in 2010). Recent landings (2007–2010) of Rajidae by the U.K. indicated that the majority of reported landings were made by otter trawl (55·9%), tangle and gillnet (18·7%) and beam trawl (15·5%). Approximately 70% of recent landings originated from four ICES Divisions: the Irish Sea (VIIa), western English Channel (VIIe), Bristol Channel (VIIf) and southern North Sea (IVc). Recent species‐specific landings of Rajidae are appraised in terms of the species reported and the overall composition, and potential problems identified. Data from observer trips have been used to estimate the species composition of Rajidae taken in some of the main commercial fisheries operating around the British Isles, and these data are compared to landings. Although there was typically broad agreement between these data sets in terms of the main species landed, misidentification issues were apparent and Rajidae with highly patchy distributions may be under‐represented in observer data. Data from observer trips were also used to examine the discard and retention pattern. Most rajid species were first retained from total lengths, L T, of 27–34 cm, with 50% retention occurring at between 49 and 51 cm and near‐full retention at L T of 60–67 cm. Beam trawls captured a higher proportion of smaller individuals, whilst gillnets (>150 mm mesh size) caught proportionally more larger rajids.

Document Type: Editorial

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8649.2012.03247.x

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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