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Advances in Skate Management and Research

tagged Alaska skate
Figure 4.  A small Alaska skate with a tag attached to the left wing.  The measuring board on which the skate rests is marked in increments of 1.0 cm.

Skates (family Rajidae) are large bottom-dwelling fishes similar to stingrays (Fig. 4). They are distributed throughout the Gulf of Alaska (GOA), eastern Bering Sea (EBS), and Aleutian Islands (AI).

Skates are chondrichthyan fishes, meaning that they contain little bony tissue and have skeletons made largely of cartilage. Along with sharks and rays, they make up the elasmobranchs, a group of fishes typified by sensitive life histories: long life, slow growth, and delayed sexual maturation. As a result, skates are a particular conservation concern in Alaska and elsewhere.

There are currently no directed fisheries for skates in Alaska waters, but large numbers of skates are caught incidentally in target fisheries. In the EBS, the Alaska skate (Bathyraja parmifera) is the dominant skate species and is caught in the Pacific cod, pollock, and flatfish fisheries.

Big (Raja binoculata) and longnose (Raja rhina) skates are the dominant species in GOA waters and are caught by similar fisheries, as well as the Pacific halibut longline fishery.

There is substantial interest in developing skate fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska, but a lack of assessment data and the existing incidental catch have kept this fishery closed since 2005.

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