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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.

 

Skate Feature Stories

Current Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR)

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.

Who manages this fishery?  The Northeast skate complex fishery is managed by the New England Fishery Management Council, with NMFS as the implementing body.

How is the fishery managed?  The skate fishery is managed using possession limits and coastwide quotas for the wing and bait fisheries, with different seasonal quota periods for each. The skate fishery is also indirectly managed by limiting fishing effort through days-at-sea (DAS) fisheries (NE multispecies, monkfish, and scallops).

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)

2003Northeast Skate Complex FMP implemented

2007 - Amendment 1 (Federal Register (FR) Notice) standardized bycatch reporting methodology

2010Amendment 3 (FR Notice) implemented annual catch limits and accountability measures

2011Framework 1 (FR Notice) adjusted possession limits; Emergency Action to increase annual catch limits

2014 - Framework 2 (FR Notice) revised vessel and dealer reporting requirements

2015 Amendment 4 (FR Notice) established standards of precision for bycatch estimation for all Northeast Region fisheries

2016 - Framework 3 (FR Notice) implemented management measures, specifications, and a new seasonal quota allocation for the skate wing fishery.

2018Framework 4 (FR Notice) implemented several measures to reduce the risk of closures to the skate bait fishery; including a reduction in the skate bait season 3 possession limit, and establishment of a separate bait incidental possession limit from the wing fishery.

2018 - Framework 5 (FR Notice) implemented specifications and several new management measures for the wing fishery; including limited possession of barndoor skate, and exemptions for some vessels when fishing exclusively within the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization Regulatory Area.

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:  54.73 million lb (2015)

Ex-vessel landing value:  $11.2 million (2015)

Estimated average ex-vessel price per pound:  $0.20 -- bait: $0.11, wings: $0.52 ($0.23 whole) -- (2015)

What are the top skate landing ports?  New Bedford, MA, Point Judith, RI, Chatham, MA, and Tiverton, RI

FishWatch Skate Information – click here

Stock Barndoor Clearnose Rosette Little
Overfishing? No No No No
Overfishing Definition* Autumn, 30% Autumn, 40% Autumn, 60% Spring, 20%
Overfished? No No No No
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 Declared rebuilt in 2016 No No No
F/FMSY Undefined Undefined Undefined Undefined
Fishing Mortality Rate Undefined Undefined Undefined Undefined
Biomass Threshold 0.78 kg/tow 0.33 kg/tow 0.024 kg/tow 3.07 kg/tow
B/BMSY or B/BMSY Proxy 1.57 kg/tow 0.66 kg/tow 0.048 kg/tow 6.15 kg/tow
Biomass (2016) 1.59 kg/tow 0.73 kg/tow 0.051 kg/tow 5.64 kg/tow
 
Stock Smooth Thorny Winter
Overfishing? No No No
Overfishing Definition* Autumn, 30% Autumn, 20% Autumn, 20%
Overfished? No Yes No
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 7 of 10-year plan Yes, year 14 of 25-year plan No
F/FMSY Undefined Undefined Undefined
Fishing Mortality Rate Undefined Undefined Undefined
Biomass Threshold 0.134 kg/tow 2.06 kg/tow 2.83 kg/tow
B/BMSY or B/BMSY Proxy 0.27 kg/tow 4.13 kg/tow 5.66 kg/tow
Biomass (2016) 0.21 kg/tow 0.17 kg/tow 5.35 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:  2008

Next Stock Assessment:  Not scheduled

Quota Monitoring – click here

2018 Skate Specifications (May 1, 2018-April 30, 2019)

Stock Northeast Skate Complex
Overfishing Limit (OFL) Undefined
Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) 31,327 mt
Annual Catch Limit (ACL) 31,327 mt
Annual Catch Target (ACT) 23,495 mt
Total Allowable Landings (TAL) 13,157 mt [wing TAL: 8,749 mt (66.5%), bait TAL: 4,408 mt (33.5%)]

2018 Seasonal Quota Allocations

Fishery Season TAL (mt)
Wing 1 (May 1-Aug 31) 4,987
2 (Sept 1-Apr 30) 3,762
Bait 1 (May 1-Jul 31) 1,358
2 (Aug 1-Oct 31) 1,635
3 (Nov 1-Apr 30) 1,415

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, if 85% of the skate wing season 1 quota (57 percent of the annual skate wing TAL) is projected to be landed between May 1 and August 17, the skate wing possession limit will be reduced to the incidental limit of 500 lb of skate wings (1,135 lb whole weight) for all vessels for the remainder of Season 1.

If 85% of the annual skate wing TAL is projected to be landed any time between August 18 and April 30, the Regional Administrator may reduce the possession limit to the incidental limit of 500 lb of skate wings (1,135 lb whole weight) prevent overfishing from occurring, 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 80% of the annual skate bait TAL is landed, the skate bait possession limit will be reduced to the incidental limit of 8,000 lb. If 100% of the skate bait TAL is landed, the skate bait fishery will be closed, and active LOAs will be voided.

Accountability Measures:

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.

Click Below for Past Quota Information:

2012-2013

2014-2015

2016-2017

Permit Categories

Permit Category Type Description Permits Issued in 2017 Number of Permits in Confirmation of Permit History*
Category 1 Commercial Vessel that fishes for, catches, possesses, transports, lands, sells, or trades skates 1,948 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: Skates may only be sold 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

***Prohibitions***

Possession or landing of thorny skates is prohibited throughout the Skate Management Unit (left map below).  In addition, possession or landing of smooth skates from the Gulf of Maine Regulated Mesh Area (right map below) is also prohibited. Limited retention of barndoor skates is now allowed in the directed skate wing fishery on a provisional basis. For more information on the allowed landing of barndoor skates, see the information page, here.

For brief descriptions on prohibited skate species, please see our summary page, here.

We also a skate identification guide to help you identify each potential species of skate in the Northeast Skate Complex: Skate ID Guide.

Skate Management Unit    NE Regulated Mesh Areas

Possession Limits

  Trip Limit (lb)
Skate Wings Whole Skates Barndoor Skate Wings** Whole Barndoor Skates**
Northeast (NE) Multispecies A, Scallop, or Monkfish DAS May 1 – August 31 2,600 5,902 650 1,476
September 1 – April 30 4,100 9,307 1,025 2,327
NE Multispecies B DAS May 1 – April 30 220 500 0 0
Non-DAS May 1 – April 30 500 1,135 0 0
Skate Bait LOA* May 1 – October 31 0 25,000 0 0
November 1 – April 30 0 12,000 0 0

 Note: Conversion factor from wing to whole weight is 2.27.

*For more information about the Skate Bait Fishery and Letter of Authorization Program, please see our summary page.

**For more information about the proportional barndoor skate limits, see our information page about the barndoor skate provisions.

Fish Size Limits:

Minimum Fish Size: None

Maximum Fish Size: 23 inches if fishing with a skate bait LOA; none under the wing fishery.

Allowable Forms: Vessels may possess and land skate wings, wings with the associated carcasses possessed separately, 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. The conversion factor from wing to whole weight is 2.27.

Gear Requirements

There are no specific gear requirements for the skate fishery. However, all vessels fishing for skates must follow Northeast (NE) multispecies, monkfish, or scallop regulations when fishing under a Day-at-Sea (DAS) for one of those fisheries.

Please refer to the regulations of those fisheries for more information.

Regulated, Closed, and Access Areas

There are no specific regulated, closed, or access areas for the skate fishery. However, all vessels fishing for skates must follow Northeast (NE) multispecies, monkfish, or scallop regulations when fishing under a Day-at-Sea (DAS) for one of those fisheries. These include seasonal and year-round closures, Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) closures, and transiting/gear storage requirements.

Please refer to the regulations of those fisheries for more information.

See ‘Exempted Fisheries’ tab for information on skate exemption areas.

Days-At-Sea (DAS) Requirements

In the skate wing fishery, to possess more than the incidental possession limit of 500 lb wings (1,135 lb whole), a vessel must be fishing on a Northeast (NE) multispecies A, monkfish, or scallop DAS.

In the skate bait fishery, the Skate Bait Letter of Authorization (LOA) does not exempt the participating vessel from the above DAS requirements of the NE multispecies, monkfish, or scallop fisheries; unless the vessel is fishing in a skate exemption area in Southern New England or the Mid-Atlantic.

For more information on these exemption areas, see the "Exempted Fisheries" tab on this page.

For more information on the skate bait fishery and LOA, see our summary page.

Exempted Fisheries

What is an Exempted Fishery?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Northeast Skate Fishery Exemptions

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. This program applies in to the skate fishery in the following exemption areas:

  • Southern New England (SNE) Monkfish and Skate Trawl Exemption Area,
  • SNE Monkfish, Skate, and Dogfish Gillnet Exemption Area, and
  • Mid-Atlantic Exemption Area.

For more detailed information on these DAS Exemption Areas, look here.

Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) Regulatory Area Exemption Program

A vessel issued a valid High Seas Fishing Compliance Permit and that complies with the associated requirements is exempt from skate permit and possession limit restrictions while transiting the EEZ with skates on board the vessel, or landing skates in U.S. ports that were caught while fishing in the NAFO Regulatory Area.  These vessels may possess, retain, and land barndoor skate; however, they may not possess, retain, or land other prohibited skate species such as thorny skate. A letter of authorization is required for participation in the NAFO Exemption Program, and other requirements and restrictions may apply. For more information, visit the NAFO website.

Skate Bait Fishery (Exempted Program / 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 or 12,000 lb of whole skates (depending on the season).  The exemption and entry into the bait fishery is granted through this LOA, which can be obtained from the Permit Office at (978)-282-8438 or online here.

For more information on the Skate Bait Fishery and LOA Program, please visit our summary page.

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.

Protected Fish Species

Marine Mammals

Sea Turtles

Trawl

Marine Mammals

Sea Turtles

Gillnets

Marine Mammals

Sea Turtles  

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.

Commercial Reporting

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 is a skate identification guide to help identify the different skate species: Skate ID Guide.

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.

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.