Raja stellulata 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Chondrichthyes Rajiformes Rajidae

Scientific Name: Raja stellulata
Species Authority: Jordan & Gilbert, 1880
Common Name(s):
English Pacific Starry Skate, Rock Skate, Prickly Skate, Starry Skate
Raia stellulata Jordan & Gilbert, 1880
Taxonomic Source(s): Eschmeyer, W.N., Fricke, R. and Van der Laan, R. (eds). 2016. Catalog of Fishes: genera, species, references. Updated 1 July 2016. Available at: (Accessed: 1 July 2016).
Taxonomic Notes: First described by Jordan and Gilbert (1880). Gilbert (1915) described Raja montereyensis based on an adult male of this species. However, R. montereyensis was later determined to be a junior synonym of R. stellulata.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2014-03-24
Assessor(s): Bigman, J.S., Ebert, D.A., Robinson, H.J. & Cailliet, G.M.
Reviewer(s): Vásquez, V.E. & Lawson, J.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Kyne, P.M., Walls, R.H.L. & Dulvy, N.K.
The Pacific Starry Skate (Raja stellulata) is mostly found over rocky substrates between 70-150 m depth, and is confirmed off the coasts of northern Baja California to Barkley Sound, British Columbia, Canada. This species is likely not a significant portion of bycatch from commercial trawlers due to its presence on rocky substrates. Skate landings off California have declined since the early 2000s, but most of the catch is not sorted to species. Scientific surveys conducted by NOAA Fisheries have confirmed that this species is not commonly collected in trawls, but it is very commonly caught on longlines over rocky reefs. Throughout the United States and Canada, fishing pressure is not considered to be a significant threat to this species, and a network of marine protected areas in California may offer increased refuge for this species. Few data available from Baja California, Mexico, suggest that this skate does not represent a large portion of the artisanal elasmobranch catch. Despite the lack of data on population structure, this species is known to be relatively common and is likely not declining. Thus, it is assessed as Least Concern.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This skate species occurs in the Northeast and Eastern Central Pacific from Coronado Bank in northern Baja California, Mexico to Barkley Sound, British Columbia, Canada (Ebert 2003, James 2011, Ramirez-Amaro et al. 2013. James et al. 2014). The Pacific Starry Skate is a common skate, and is particularly abundant in Monterey Bay, California during the winter and spring months (Ebert 2003). Records of this skate have been reported from the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, but this may be a different species of skate, likely the Alaska Skate (Bathyraja parmifera; Miller and Lea 1972, Ebert 2003).
Countries occurrence:
Canada (British Columbia); Mexico (Baja California); United States (California, Oregon, Washington)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – northeast
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):982
Upper depth limit (metres):18
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:There is no information on the population structure of this species. Skates have been fished along the California coast since the mid-1880s and landings for all skates varied annually since that time with a peak in 1997 (1,362 metric tons). Since 2000, landings of skate have decreased due to decreased demand (California Department of Fish and Wildlife 2013). While species-specific data are collected for some commercially fished skates in California (i.e., the Big Skate; Beringraja binoculata), the Pacific Starry Skate and all other skate species are categorized as "unspecified skate" in landings data (California Department of Fish and Wildlife 2000-2014).

On the Pacific coast of Baja California, Mexico, this species was recorded in artisanal gillnet elasmobranch fisheries during surveys from 2000 to 2010 only in the summer months, at a seasonal catch-per-unit-effort of 0.04 (+/- 0.03), which was equivalent to ~0.11% of the total catch over that time period (Ramirez-Amaro et al. 2013).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The Pacific Starry Skate can be found on hard substrate near rocky reefs with some vertical relief, from 18 to 982 m, and is most common between 70–150 m along the continental shelf (Ebert 2003, James 2011, James et al. 2014). Ebert (2003) noted that this is a common species and it is very abundant in Monterey Bay, California during winter and spring. This species has also been found on other substrate types (soft sediment, mixed) but is much more common on hard substrates, especially the larger individuals (James 2011). Older individuals may be found at deeper depths, but no differences in depth, temperature, or substrate types appear to exist between the sexes (James 2011). The known temperature range of this species is 4.1–11.6°C, with an average of 8.9°C.

The Pacific Starry Skate is oviparous with striated egg cases that possess long, robust horns (Ebert 2003, Ebert and Davis 2007). This species reproduces year-round, but has no distinct cycle (James 2011). Size at birth is 15.5–22.5 cm total length (TL; Ebert 2003, James 2011). Length at first maturity is 47.4 cm TL and 9 years for females; and for males length at maturity is 46.0 cm TL and age is 6 years (James 2011). Length at 50% maturity is 63.2 cm TL and age is 11.2 years for females and 60.3 cm TL and 11.5 years for males (James 2011). At 100% maturity, length is ≥69.2 cm TL and age is 15 years for females, and length is ≥65.8 cm TL and ≥13 years for males (James 2011). Females reach a maximum TL of 76.1 cm and a maximum age of 15 years, and males reach a maximum TL of 71.7 cm and a maximum age of 14 years (Ebert 2003, James 2011, James et al. 2014). James et al. (2014) estimated maximum age to be between 11 and 15 years, as their results varied depending on the ageing method used (gross vs. histological sections). Growth was best described by a two parameter von Bertalanffy growth function, where L∞= 91.5 cm TL and k= 0.013 year-1 (James et al. 2014). Using information provided by James (2011), generation length was estimated to be 8–12 years.
Generation Length (years):8-12

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is not known to be utilized.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The Pacific Starry Skate is likely taken occasionally as bycatch in trawling and recreational fisheries, although little species-specific data are available. As this species is most commonly found on rocky substrate it probably does not make up a significant portion of skate bycatch from trawling (Ebert 2003, James 2011). This species is not commonly collected in NOAA Fisheries trawl surveys, but is commonly collected on NOAA Fisheries survey longlines that are over rocky and hard substrates (D. Ebert, unpub. data).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no species-specific conservation measures in place for this species.

On the United States west coast (Washington, Oregon and California), ground fisheries are managed by a federal Groundfish Fishery Management Plan. Although this species is not a focal species of the plan, and no species-specific on the Pacific Starry Skate will be collected, other chondrichthyans are being managed under this program. 

Additionally, in California, a network of 29 marine protected areas (MPAs) were implemented in 2007 under California's Marine Life Protection Act, representing approximately 204 square miles (~18%) of state waters in the central coast region (California Department of Fish and Wildlife 2015). This network of MPAs overlap with a portion of the range of this species. Due to these MPAs, most trawlers are restricted to operating in deeper waters, and only in central and northern California. As a result, fishing effort in the California trawl fishery has been reduced, and catches of this species have also likely been reduced (D. Ebert pers. obs. 2007).

Citation: Bigman, J.S., Ebert, D.A., Robinson, H.J. & Cailliet, G.M. 2016. Raja stellulata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T161629A80677268. . Downloaded on 30 September 2016.
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