The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) today, 19th May 2023, launched their guide, Skates and Rays of Ireland 2023 . There are 16 species of skates and rays that are regularly caught in Irish waters, some of which can be fished commercially under quota restrictions while others are partially or totally prohibited. Skates and rays are required to be fished in accordance with Irish and EU regulations and this ensures the long-term sustainability of these stocks. The guide details how to identify these species, and what three letter codes to use to record all these species.
The key features to help identify each skate or ray are shown in red, including key characteristics of a particular species. The guide is currently being distributed to fishermen who may encounter skates and/or rays, and fish buyers who may handle skates or rays. These waterproof guides can be used for reference by fishermen and fish buyers’ onboard vessels or in the processing/receiving areas of fish buyers’ premises.
Commenting on the launch of the guide, SFPA Chairperson Paschal Hayes said; “Since January 2009, it has been a legal requirement that catches of various species of ray including cuckoo ray, thornback ray, blonde ray, spotted ray, sandy and shagreen ray are reported separately. Some fishermen are logging all skates or rays, irrespective of what species they are, as one species, such as blonde rays. Additionally, some fish buyers are recording all their catches as another species, such as thornback rays. Such discrepancies result in errors in SFPA’s automated cross-check system VALID, which requires follow-up by Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers (SFPOs). All species over 50kg, whether they are a quota species or not, must be logged, recorded, or reported using the correct species-specific code. Failure to record species correctly can result in inaccurate stock assessments and may result in reduced quotas. For this reason, the guide will endeavour to help improve the accuracy of the identification of species and their subsequent correct recording.
‘We are pleased that John Lynch, CEO, Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation and current Chair of the joint North Western Waters Advisory Council and North Sea Advisory Council focus group on skates and rays who have been advising that identification guides of this type are in place to ensure the correct identification of the different species of skates and rays in the logbook data, is supporting the promotion of this Guide.”
“This is an easy-to-use guide to help identify the various species common to Irish waters, to ensure the long-term sustainability of these skate and ray stocks within the wider healthy marine ecosystems. It is essential that they are fished in strict accordance with Irish and EU regulations. Accurately recording the species of skates and rays that are caught enables more accurate stock assessments which provide clear scientific advice. By working together, we can phase out the use of the catch-all species codes and ensure that everyone across the country is using the correct codes to record all species of skates and rays.”
Fishermen and fish buyers that require help in identifying any of the species of skates and rays are encouraged to contact their local SFPO and/or SFPA office and they will assist in identifying the species, as well as how to use the guide. Photographs of species caught by fishermen will also assist in identifying species and these can be sent to the local SFPOs, or SFPA Port Office.