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Leucoraja erinacea 

Scope: Global
Language: English
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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Chondrichthyes Rajiformes Rajidae

Scientific Name: Leucoraja erinacea (Mitchill 1825)
Common Name(s):
English Little Skate
Synonym(s):
Raja erinaceus Mitchill, 1825
Taxonomic Notes: Sympatric to the Winter Skate (Leucoraja ocellata), immature Little Skates are often confused with immature Winter Skates (especially females). However, the probability of misidentification decreases with skate size as they mature. Skates originally identified as little skate in the Gulf of St. Lawrence were later confirmed as winter skate.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2009
Date Assessed: 2008-12-01
Assessor(s): Sulikowski, J., Kulka, D.W. & Gedamke, T.
Reviewer(s): Dulvy, N.K. & Valenti, S.V. (Shark Red List Authority)
Justification:
The Little Skate (Leucoraja erinacea) is considered a shallow water species and occurs to depths of 90 m. It has a relatively narrow distribution, found only in the northwest Atlantic from Grand Banks, Canada to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, USA, and reaches its highest concentrations in USA waters. It is relatively rare to the north in Canadian waters, with very few records north of the Scotian Shelf. In the continental USA, this species is commercially targeted for lobster bait and is landed as bycatch. Currently there is no specific management plan in place for the little skate in the USA but there is a framework that could implement restrictions to the fishery if biomass levels fall below threshold levels. Biomass estimates for Little Skate were increasing until recently. However, recent trawl surveys (2006) conducted by the National Marine Fisheries surface suggest that the Little Skate is near the overfishing threshold (18.7 vs. 20%) and will likely be above the threshold as of 2007. It is also near the minimum biomass threshold (3.32 vs. 3.27 kg/tow) and may become overfished. The lack of information on sexual maturity coupled with the apparent recent declines in biomass warrant a precautionary assessment of Near Threatened (close to meeting VU A4bd). Population trends should be monitored.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Northwest Atlantic: occasionally from the Grand Banks and northeast Newfoundland, more common on the Scotian Shelf in Canada, south to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, USA (Bigelow and Schroeder 1953, Richards et al. 1963, McEachran and Musick 1977, Michalopoulos 1990).
Countries occurrence:
Native:
Canada; United States (Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Virginia)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Native:
Atlantic – northwest
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):90
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The Little Skate (Leucoraja erinacea) is distributed from Nova Scotia, Canada to Cape Hatteras, USA and is one of the dominant members of the demersal fish community in the USA portion of the Northwest Atlantic (Bigelow and Schroeder 1953, Richards et al. 1963, McEachran and Musick 1977, Michalopoulos 1990). Its center of abundance appears to be the northern section of the mid-Atlantic Bight and on Georges Bank, where it is found year-round (McEachran and Musick 1977). In fact, survey estimates since 1997 have been and continue to be the highest on record for little skates. The 1999-2001 three-year average of 8.47 kg/tow is well above the proposed biomass threshold of 3.27 kg/tow and even above the proposed biomass target. Due to the overall increases in little skate biomass over the last 20 years which was at its highest level (NEFSC 2000). However, recent trawl surveys (2006) conducted by the National Marine Fisheries surface suggest that the little skate is near the overfishing threshold (18.7 vs. 20%) and will likely be above the threshold as of 2007. It is also near the minimum biomass threshold (3.32 vs. 3.27 kg/tow) and may become overfished (NEFMC 2007).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Habitat ranges from shallow shoal waters to 90 m depth, usually on sandy or gravelly substrates. This species reaches a maximum size of 60 cm total length (TL) (Johnson 1979). Males and females mature at 35-50 cm TL and size at birth is 9.3-10.2 cm TL (McEachran 2002, Richards et al. 1963). Females produce 28-33 eggs per year after a gestation period of 9-12 months (Richards et al. 1963, Johnson 1979).

Little Skates make no extensive migrations, although where it occurs inshore the species moves onshore and offshore with seasonal temperature changes (Collette and Klein-MacPhee 2002). Common prey items include hermit and other crabs, shrimps, worms, amphipods, ascidians (sea squirts), bivalve mollusks, squid, small fishes, and even some copepods (Collette and Klein-MacPhee 2002).
Systems:Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The principal threat to Little Skate is over-exploitation from commercial fishing and bycatch. Otter trawls are the primary fishing method associated with direct and indirect Little Skate catch. Recreational and foreign landings are currently insignificant, at <1% of the total USA fishery landings (Packer et al. 2003).

In US waters, a directed fishery exists for little skates in Rhode Island for utilization primarily as lobster bait. However, vessels from other ports (New Bedford, and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts (MA); Block Island, Long Island, and, to a lesser degree, Chatham and Provincetown, MA) have been identified as participating in the directed skate bait fishery to some extent (NEFMC 2001). The time series of skate landings shows a significant increase in landings in the 1990s (6,700 mt in 1989, about 11,400 mt annually from 1990 to present). Fishermen and state fisheries managers attribute the increase in skate landings in 1990 to better reporting and documentation, rather than a significant expansion of the skate fishery. Total recreational landings for little skate varied between <1,000 and 56,000 fish, equivalent to <1-15 mt, during 1981 to 1998 (Packer et al. 2003).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Currently there is no specific management plan in place for the little skate. In the USA, there is a framework that could implement restrictions to the fishery if biomass levels fall below threshold levels (NEFMC 2003).

Recommendations for future conservation action: Enforce U.S. species-specific landings reporting requirements and increase scientific research and government sea sampling attention to skates; begin developing estimates for target and limit reference points; reduce discard mortality by encouraging and/or mandating more careful handling and discard techniques.

Citation: Sulikowski, J., Kulka, D.W. & Gedamke, T. 2009. Leucoraja erinacea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009: e.T161418A5419226. . Downloaded on 21 November 2017.
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