New ID guide aims to improve recording and stock assessment

The Sea Fishers Protection Authority (SFPA) has launched a guide to help fishermen identify skate and ray species in Ireland.

Sixteen species of skate and ray are regularly caught in Irish waters, some of which can be fished commercially under quota restrictions, while the capture of others is partially or totally prohibited.

The waterproof guide, designed with the co-operation of the Shark Trust in the UK, is currently being distributed to fishermen and fish buyers. It details how to identify the different species, and what three-letter codes to use to record them.

SFPA chairperson Paschal Hayes said: “Since January 2009, it has been a legal requirement that catches of various species of ray including cuckoo ray, thornback ray, blonde ray, spotted ray, sandy and shagreen ray are reported separately.

“Some fishers are logging all skates or rays, irrespective of what species they are, as one species, such as blonde rays. Additionally, some fish buyers are recording all their catches as another species, such as thornback rays.

“Such discrepancies result in errors in SFPA’s automated cross-check system VALID, which requires follow-up by sea fisheries protection officers. All species over 50kg, whether they are a quota species or not, must be logged, recorded or reported using the correct species- specific code.

“Failure to record species correctly can result in inaccurate stock assessments and may result in reduced quotas. For this reason, the guide will endeavour to help improve the accuracy of the identification of species and their subsequent correct recording.”

The SFPA says that fishermen and fish buyers who require help in identifying skates and rays are encouraged to contact their local fishery officer and/or the SFPA. Photographs of species caught will also assist in identifying skates and rays, and can be sent to local officers or the SFPA port offices.

“This is an easy-to-use guide to help identify the various species common to Irish waters, to ensure the long-term sustainability of these skate and ray stocks within the wider healthy marine ecosystems. It is essential that they are fished in strict accordance with Irish and EU regulations. Accurately recording the species of skates and rays that are caught enables more accurate stock assessments which provide clear scientific advice,” said Paschal Hayes.

“By working together, we can phase out the use of the catch-all species codes and ensure that everyone across the country is using the correct codes to record all species of skates and rays.”

The Skates and Rays of Ireland Identification Guide 2023 can be accessed here.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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