Winter Skate (Leucoraja ocellata)
Northeast Skate Complex
Implementing regulations are found at 50 CFR part 648 subpart O
The Northeast skate complex fishery in the Greater Atlantic Region includes seven skate species and operates from Maine to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and from inshore to offshore waters on the edge of the continental shelf. Skate is mostly harvested incidentally in trawl and gillnet fisheries targeting groundfish, monkfish, and sometimes scallops. The Northeast skate complex fishery consists of seven species: Leucoraja ocellata (winter skate); Dipturis laevis (barndoor skate); Amblyraja radiata (thorny skate); Malacoraja senta (smooth skate); Leucoraja erinacea (little skate); Raja eglanteria (clearnose skate); and Leucoraja garmani (rosette skate). The primary target species in the skate fishery are winter and little skates. Winter skates are harvested for their wings for human consumption, and little skates are harvested as bait for lobster fisheries. Thorny skate and barndoor skate are currently prohibited species.
2017 Skate Federal Register Actions
- Notification of U.S. Fishing Opportunities; International Affairs: U.S. Fishing Opportunities in Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization Regulatory Area
- Announcement of revised scoping hearing schedule; Northeast Skate Complex Fishery; Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement; Scoping Process; Request for Comments
- Temporary Rule; Northeast Skate Complex; Adjustment to the Skate Wing and Skate Bait Inseason Possession Limits
- Notice; Northeast Skate Complex Fishery; Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement; Scoping Process; Request for Comments
Click Below for Past Federal Register Actions & Public Comments:
Skate Feature Stories
What are other common names for the skate fishery? None
What time of year are skate most commonly found? Some skates move seasonally, such as winter skates, which reside offshore in summer and early fall and return inshore during winter and spring. The Rhode Island bait fishery, which mostly targets little skate, increases seasonally to accommodate the amplified effort in the spring through fall lobster fishery. The Southern New England sink gillnet fishery targets winter skates seasonally along with monkfish (highest catch rates in early spring and late fall). Skates are also caught year-round in gillnets and trawls incidentally to other species of groundfish.
What is the geographic extent of skate? The skate complex is distributed form near the tide line to depths exceeding 700 meters. Most of the bait fishery occurs in New England waters and is largely comprised of little skate. The directed bait fishery by Rhode Island vessels occurs primarily in federal waters from the RI/CT/NY state waters boundary east to the waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket out to approximately 69° W. Other ports that participate in the bait fishery to some extent include ports in southern Massachusetts, Long Island, and Connecticut. Vessels landing for the wing market either target skates on Georges Bank, the Great South Channel, or west of the Nantucket Lightship area in Southern New England. Vessels landing for the wing market also target skates in the western Gulf of Maine, primarily using trawl gear. Vessels using gillnets often fish east of Cape Cod.
At what depths are skate found? The bait fishery by Rhode Island occurs primarily in Federal waters less than 40 fathoms. The wing fishery operates over the same depth range as the northeast multispecies fishery.
Are other species caught when fishing for skate? Yes, there is considerable overlap with regulated multispecies and monkfish fisheries. Species harvested on presumed skate trips include groundfish, monkfish, and summer flounder, among others.
What gear types are authorized and what gears are primarily used? Trawl, gillnet, longline, handline, dredge, and rod and reel are all authorized gears. Otter trawl is the primary gear used, landing approximately 65-86% of total skate landings from 2002-2009. Gillnets are the secondary gear used. Almost all skates caught with gillnets are landed as wings. Otter trawls are used for both the bait and wing markets. Skates are also consistently caught with traps, hook gear, and scallop dredges. Landings from these gears are relatively insignificant.
How is the fishery managed? Skate is managed using coastwide quotas for the wing and bait fisheries (seasonal for the bait fishery) and possession limits (seasonal for the wing fishery). The skate fishery is also indirectly managed by limiting fishing effort through days-at-sea (DAS) fisheries (NE multispecies, monkfish, and scallops).
Who manages this fishery? Skate is managed by NOAA Fisheries in conjunction with the New England Fishery Management Council.
What is the fishing year for this fishery? May 1 – April 30
What are the different management areas for the skate fishery? Maine to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina (35° 15.3’ N latitude).
1990s – Skate wing fishery evolved as skate was promoted as ‘underutilized species’
1999 – Barndoor skate was petitioned to be listed as a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act; skate complex was assessed and determined that four of the seven skate complex species were in an overfished condition
2000 – New England Fishery Management Council designated as responsible body for developing fishery management plan (FMP)
2003 – Northeast Skate Complex FMP implemented
What are the primary markets for the skate fishery? Human consumption (mostly exports) and domestic lobster bait
What are the recent landings and value of the fishery?
Landings: 61.45 million lb (2010)
Ex-vessel landing value: $12.617 million (2010)
Estimated average ex-vessel price per pound: $0.20 – bait $0.11, wings $0.52 ($0.23 whole) (2010)
What are the top skate landing ports? New Bedford, MA, Point Judith, RI, Chatham, MA, and Tiverton, RI
Northeast Fisheries Science Center Skate Information – click here
|Overfishing Definition*||Autumn, 30%||Autumn, 40%||Autumn, 60%||Spring, 20%|
|Overfished Definition||When the 3-year moving average of the autumn survey mean weight per tow is less than one-half of the mean weight per tow observed in the autumn trawl survey from 1963-1966 (currently 0.81 kg/tow).||When the 3-year moving average of the autumn survey mean weight per tow is less than one-half of the 75th percentile of the mean weight per tow observed in the autumn trawl survey from the selected reference time series.||When the 3-year moving average of the spring survey mean weight per tow is less than one-half of the 75th percentile of the mean weight per tow observed in the spring trawl survey from the selected reference time series.|
|Rebuilding Program||Yes, year 9 of plan||No||No||No|
|Fishing Mortality Rate||Undefined||Undefined||Undefined||Undefined|
|B/BMSY or B/BMSY Proxy||0.77||1.53||0.87||1.14|
|Biomass (2010)||1.21 kg/tow||1.01 kg/tow||0.042 kg/tow||6.99 kg/tow|
|Overfishing Definition*||Autumn, 30%||Autumn, 20%||Autumn, 20%|
|Overfished Definition||When the 3-year moving average of the autumn survey mean weight per tow is less than one-half of the 75th percentile of the mean weight per tow observed in the autumn trawl survey from the selected reference time series.|
|Rebuilding Program||Yes, year 2 of 10 year plan||Yes, year 9 of 25 year plan||No|
|Fishing Mortality Rate||Undefined||Undefined||Undefined|
|B/BMSY or B/BMSY Proxy||0.81||0.03||0.88|
|Biomass (2010)||0.22 kg/tow||0.12 kg/tow||4.96 kg/tow|
*When the 3-year moving average of the (spring/autumn) survey mean weight per tow declines __% or more, or when the (spring/autumn) survey mean weight per tow declines for 3 consecutive years.
Other Stock Status Information: Not Applicable
Most Recent Environmental Impact Statement: 2010 (Amendment 3)
Most Recent Biological Opinion: 2013
Most Recent Stock Assessment: 2012
Next Stock Assessment: Not scheduled
Quota Monitoring – click here
2016-2017 Skate Specifications (May 1, 2016-April 30, 2018)
|Overfishing Limit (OFL)||Undefined|
|Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC)||31,081 mt|
|Annual Catch Limit (ACL)||23,311 mt|
|Annual Catch Target (ACT)||12,590 mt|
|Total Allowable Landings (TAL)||12,590 mt (wing TAL 8,372 mt (66.5%), bait TAL 4,218 mt (33.5%))|
|Optimal Yield (OY)||75% of MSY|
Research Set-Aside: Not Applicable
How often do the quotas change for this fishery? Every 1-2 years
What if specifications are not in place at the start of fishing year? Existing specifications roll over
Are there inseason adjustments (changes mid-fishing year) in this fishery? Yes, when 85% of the skate wing TAL is landed, the Regional Administrator will reduce the skate wing possession limit to the incidental limit of 500 lb of skate wings (1,135 lb whole weight) for all vessels for the remainder of the fishing year, provided that doing so would not prevent the skate wing TAL from being attained.
When 90% of the skate bait seasonal quota is landed in either Season 1 or 2, or when 90% of the annual skate bait TAL is landed, the Regional Administrator will close the directed fishery by reducing the skate bait possession limit to the whole weight equivalent of the skate wing possession limit in effect at that time (either 5,902 lb, 9,307 lb, or 1,135 lb).
If the skate wing fishery TAL or skate bait fishery TAL is determined to have been exceeded by more than 5% in any given year based upon, but not limited to, available landings information, the Regional Administrator shall reduce the inseason possession limit trigger for that fishery in the next fishing year by 1% for each 1% of the TAL overage. If the ACL is determined to have been exceeded in any given year, based upon, but not limited to, available landings and discard information, the percent buffer between ACL and ACT, initially specified at 25%, shall be increased by 1% for each 1% ACL overage in the second fishing year following the fishing year in which the ACL overage occurred, through either the specifications or framework adjustment process.
Other: Not Applicable
Click Below for Past Quota Information:
|Permit Category||Type||Description||Permits Issued in 2014||Number of Permits in Confirmation of Permit History*|
|Category 1||Commercial||Vessel that fishes for, catches, possesses, transports, lands, sells, or trades skates||2,012||Not Applicable|
*A Confirmation of Permit History allows a vessel owner to retain permit eligibility in the event the vessel has been destroyed or sold but the owner retains the permit eligibility. The permit in Confirmation of Permit History may then be placed on a vessel at a later date.
Control Date: July 30, 2009 (for the skate bait fishery)
Other Permit Information: Not Applicable
Commercial Operator Permit: Operator cards are required for any operator of a charter/party boat or a commercial vessel (including carrier and processor vessels) issued a vessel permit from the Greater Atlantic Region and fishing for or in possession of fish.
Commercial Dealer/Processor Permit: Skate may be sold only to persons possessing a valid Federal skate dealer permit.
How to Obtain a Federal Fishing Permit: Anyone with a valid vessel operator’s permit can obtain a Federal skate permit by submitting a permit application and supporting documentation to the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office Permit Division.More information can be found here.
Possession Limits and Fish Size Requirements
***Prohibition***Possession or landing of barndoor and thorny skates is prohibited throughout the Skate Management Unit. In addition, possession or landing of smooth skates from the Gulf of Maine Regulated Mesh Area is prohibited. Here are two skate identification guides to help you identify each species of skate: Skate ID Guide 1and Skate ID Guide 2.
|Trip Limit (lb)|
|Skate Wings||Whole Skates||Whole Skate Bait w/Letter of Authorization (LOA)|
|Northeast (NE) Multispecies , Scallop, or Monkfish DAS||May 1 – August 31||2,600||5,902||25,000*|
|September 1 – April 30||4,100||9,307|
|NE Multispecies B DAS||May 1 – April 30||220||500||500|
|Non-DAS||May 1 – April 30||500||1,135||1,135|
*These limits also apply to vessels fishing in an approved Skate Fishery Exemption Area defined in the NE multispecies regulations at § 648.80.
Fish Size Limits:
Minimum Fish Size: None
Maximum Fish Size: 23 inches if fishing with a skate bait LOA
Allowable Forms: Vessels may possess and land skate wings, skate carcasses, and/or whole skates. The weight of skate carcasses may not exceed 1.27 times the weight of skate wings, and vessels may not possess skate carcasses without retaining the associated wings. Any combination of landed skate products must adhere to the trip limits described above.
Not Applicable – must follow Northeast multispecies, monkfish, or scallop gear regulations.
Regulated, Closed, and Access Areas
Not Applicable – must follow Northeast multispecies, monkfish, or scallop regulations.
Days-At-Sea (DAS) Requirements
To possess more than the incidental possession limit of 500 lb wings, a vessel must be fishing on a Northeast (NE) multispecies, monkfish, or scallop DAS.
To possess more than the incidental possession limit of 1,135 lb whole (bait), a vessel must be fishing on a NE multispecies, monkfish, or scallop DAS, or in one of the skate exemption areas in Southern New England (SNE) or in the Mid-Atlantic exemption area.
Exempted fisheries allow fishing vessels to fish for specific species without being subject to certain Northeast (NE) multispecies regulations, including days-at-sea (DAS), provided the bycatch of regulated species is minimal. To be approved and implemented, exemption programs must have demonstrated that incidental catch of NE multispecies is less than 5 percent of the total catch, by weight, and that the exemption will not jeopardize fishing mortality objectives.
How to Request Fishery Exemptions
An exempted fishery may be added, deleted, or modified pursuant to the procedure described below:
- Applicants must submit a written request to the Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930-2298. The request should describe the area in which the fishery would operate, the period in which it would operate, the gear it would use, the approximate number of vessels likely to participate, and the species it would target, retain, and land.
- Those proposing that a fishery should be exempt should describe the fishery and present all information possible that helps determine that the fishery meets the bycatch standard. The Regional Administrator will investigate NMFS data sources, but proposals for exemptions should be complete and clear to facilitate the process. State agencies and universities, for example, may have additional data available and applicants may contact them for assistance.
- When a request for an exempted fishery is submitted, the request and any accompanying data are reviewed by the Regional Administrator to determine whether such a fishery would meet the exemption qualifying criteria. The Regional Administrator will also consult with the New England Fishery Management Council on any exemptions requested. This process may take several months to complete.
A vessel fishing in a NE multispecies DAS exemption program that permits skate retention may possess and land skate or skate parts equal to 10%, by weight, of all other species on board, or 500 lb of skate wings (1,135 lb whole weight), whichever is less.
Skate Bait Fishery Letter of Authorization – A holder of a Federal skate permit may request and receive from the Regional Administrator an exemption from the skate wing possession limits described in the Limit/Sizes tab to land whole skates for use as bait. A vessel with a valid Skate Bait Letter of Authorization (LOA) may possess and land up to 25,000 lb of skates. The exemption is granted in an LOA and can be obtained from the Permit Operations Office at (978) 281-9730.
The exemption program requires the following of participants:
- Possession/landing of only whole skates less than 23 in total length;
- Must be fishing on a NE multispecies, monkfish, or scallop DAS unless fishing in one of the skate exemption areas in Southern New England (SNE) or in the Mid-Atlantic exemption area;
- Compliance with the at-sea transfer provisions, if applicable; and
- Enrollment for at least 7 days.
The skate bait LOA does not exempt the participating vessel from DAS requirements of the NE multispecies, monkfish, or scallop fisheries. Therefore, unless a skate bait vessel is fishing in one of the skate exemption areas in SNE or in the Mid-Atlantic exemption area, it must still fish on a NE multispecies, monkfish, or scallop DAS. The LOA only exempts the vessel from the skate wing possession limits described above.
A vessel issued a Federal skate permit may transfer at sea skates taken in or from the Skate Management Unit, provided:
- The transferring vessel has an LOA onboard (see above);
- The owner/operator complies with the requirements of the skate bait exemption program;
- The transferring vessel maintains a record of the quantity of skates transferred according to the current logbook reporting requirements;
- The transferring vessel provides the receiving vessel documentation showing the date and amount of skates transferred, regardless of monetary exchange; and
- The transferring vessel maintains onboard, for a least 1 year from the date of the transfer, a copy of the documentation.
Protected Resource and Marine Mammal Regulations
It is illegal to harvest or possess protected species unless otherwise specified under the regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act or Marine Mammal Protection Act. Please see links below for more information or contact NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office Protected Resources Division at (978) 281-9328.
- Atlantic Sturgeon - Endangered and threatened
- Shortnose Sturgeon – Endangered
- Atlantic Salmon - The Gulf of Maine (GOM) distinct population segment (DPS) of Atlantic salmon is endangered.
- Atlantic Trawl Gear Take Reduction Strategy
- Marine Mammal Authorization Program
- Reporting injured or dead marine mammal caught in fishing gear
- Annual Determination – Observer Requirements
- Handling and Resuscitation Requirements
- Summer Flounder Fishery Requirements
- Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan
- Bottlenose Dolphin Take Reduction Plan (Mid-Atlantic and Southeast)
- Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Plan
- Marine Mammal Authorization Program
- Reporting injured or dead marine mammal caught in fishing gear
There are currently no recreational possession restrictions for skate caught in Federal waters. Minimum size limits and general information on all recreational fisheries in our region can be found here.
Recreational anglers will need to get a general recreational fishing license either through your state or through NMFS to fish recreationally for marine species. More information can be found here.
Catch Reporting and Vessel Trip Reports (VTR): The owner or operator of any vessel issued a Federal skate permit must maintain on board the vessel and submit and accurate Federal fishing VTR for all fishing trips (regardless of species retained). Skates must be identified according to the following categories: Winter skate; little skate; little/winter skate; barndoor skate; smooth skate; thorny skate; clearnose skate; or rosette skate. Vessels may no longer report landings as 'unclassified' skate. All discards of skates must be reported according to two size classes: Large skates (greater than or equal to 23 in total length) and small skates (less than 23 in total length). Here are two skate identification guides to help identify the different skate species: Skate ID Guide 1 and Skate ID Guide 2.
For vessels not holding a limited access Northeast (NE) multispecies permit, VTRs must be received by NMFS or postmarked within 15 days after the end of the reporting month. For NE multispecies limited access permit holders, VTRs must be submitted weekly and received by NMFS or postmarked by midnight of the Tuesday following the reporting week. Copies of VTRs must be retained on board the vessel for 1 year after the date of the last entry on the log. If no fishing activity took place during a fishing month, then a VTR must be submitted stating that no fishing trips were taken.
Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) Requirements: The skate fishery does not have any VMS requirements, but must abide by NE multispecies, scallop, or monkfish regulations if fishing on a day-at-sea (DAS) for one of those fisheries.
Observer Requirements: The skate fishery does not have any specific observer requirements, but must abide by NE multispecies, scallop, or monkfish regulations if fishing on a DAS for one of those fisheries. Additionally, all federally permitted vessels are obligated to carry an observer if randomly selected by the National Observer Program.
Charter/Party and Recreational Reporting
Reporting is not required for the recreational fishery, but the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) is a system of voluntary coordinated data collection programs designed to estimate recreational catch and effort.