The always busy Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network [SSACN] is running their third Common Skate Event – from the 19th-21st April.
This will again see dedicated volunteer sea anglers travelling from all over the UK to help gather data regarding one of the nation’s shark stocks on behalf of the Scottish Shark Tagging Program (SSTP)
Around 50 sea anglers using their own boats are expected to fish the Skate Recapture Event in the waters around Ardfern in Argyll, over this April weekend.
The critically endangered common skate is the largest skate found in EU waters – with some growing to well over 200lbs. It was once abundant in north-west Europe but there have been significant declines around the UK over the last century due to poor fisheries policies, excessive exploitation and being discarded as bycatch.
According to Ian Burrett, Project Director of the SSTP: ‘We have been working closely with our volunteer anglers and Scottish Government’s Marine Scientists to gather data on the skate and combine it with data from other sources and programmes. After subjecting the data to rigorous and detailed analysis by marine scientists, it presented some amazing results.
‘For example, it has indicated a complex pattern of residency and territorial behaviours, with some influx of animals during the Spring and Summer months.
‘Migratory corridors also appear to exist between the Sound of Jura, Firth of Lorn, Sound of Mull and Loch Sunart.
‘Therefore, if we can identify those areas where female skate congregate and reproduce, appropriate measures can be then taken to help regenerate stocks’.
The data has also been used to inform and shape Scottish Government policy – it contributed to the creation of a Special Statutory Instrument in early 2012 to provide the highest level of protection for 26 species of shark in Scottish waters. It also formed the basis of SSACN’s proposals for Marine Protected Areas to protect habitats from the Sound of Jura to Loch Sunart.
The data has also served as a foundation for other projects – including two electronic tagging studies and two PhD projects involving researching population connectivity dynamics, using genetic techniques; and the modelling of skate movements, using tagging data.
Anyone wishing to find out more about the Skate Recapture Event, or to register to take part in it, can do so on the SSTP website here.
Note: The photograph above was taken in the Sound of Jura at SSACN’s last Skate Tagathon out of Ardfern, in April 2011.