Skates and rays are slow growing, late maturing and lay a small number of eggs per year so are highly vulnerable to fishing pressure. This species is not actively targeted but significant quantities are caught as bycatch in trawl and net fisheries.
A medium sized ray growing to a maximum length of 75cm. Cuckoo rays reach maturity at a length of around 60cm and an age of 4 to 5 years. They lay between 70 and 150 eggs per year. They are most commonly found at depths of 200m on sandy and muddy seabeds. They are found in shallower areas but the juveniles seem to prefer to spend their time in deep water.
Landings of cuckoo ray have remained constant at around 150 tonnes per year landed to Cornish ports- a significant catch. ICES advises that catches should be decreased by at least 36%. (2014 Advice skates and Rays) However, as species-specific landings data are not complete, it is not possible to quantify the current catch. ICES does not advise that an individual TAC be set for this stock, at present. Additional measures should be identified that can regulate exploitation of this stock. Such measures may include seasonal and/or area closures, technical measures, and tailored measures for target fisheries. Such measures should be developed by stakeholder consultations, considering the overall mixed fisheries context.
There is no specific management plan for cuckoo rays. They are part of a mixed quota along with spotted, blonde, small-eyed and thornback rays in the Celtic Sea region. Quotas alone may not adequately protect these species as there are differences amongst species in their vulnerabilities to exploitation and a restrictive quota may lead to discarding. Instead seasonal and/or area closures, effort restrictions and measures to protect spawning grounds for example are recommended. There are no such measures in Cornwall however across the border North Devon fishermen have established a scheme that is making ray fisheries far more sustainable.
North Devon Fishermen's Association (NDFA) members voluntarily adhere to a minimum landing size (MLS) of 45cms (wing-tip to wing-tip) for all ray species to assist growth and spawning. For smaller ray species such as small-eyed ray this ensures fish are allowed to breed before they are fished. The NDFA represents an average of 70 fishermen and 650 members of the processing sector from South Wales and Cornwall as well as North Devon. It is also a founder member of the Seafish skates and rays group. By adopting initiatives to restrict landing sizes, identify conservation zones and improve catch reporting the NDFA has contributed to improved management of the ray fisheries in the Bristol Channel. Their fleet of 24 vessels is made up of both under 10 metre and up to 15.95 metre boats. The main fish landings are ray. Thornback, blonde, small eyed and spotted ray account for 70% of the NDFA whitefish landings. The fishery for ray is a year around fishery with the largest of landings being made late in the year. The closed area known as the Ray Box is closed to trawlers between December 1st and May 31st to protect juvenile ray and aid spawning. The area covers some 400 sq km. NDFA fishermen also comply with a Code of Practice. This practice requires that any ray below the voluntary minimum landing size of 45cm wide is handled with care and returned immediately to the sea in order to increase its chance of survival.
Caught in beam trawls, demersal trawls and gill nets.
These fishing methods all have issues with by-catch of non target species and impacts on the wider marine environment.
MMO landings data
Shark trust factsheets www.sharktrust.org Shark Trust; 2009. An Illustrated Compendium of Sharks, Skates, Rays and Chimaera. Chapter 1: The British Isles. Part 1: Skates and Rays.
Seafish responsible sourcing guides
ICES Advice Rays and Skates in the Celtic sea ecoregion 2013
Enever, R., Revill, A., Grant, A. (2009) The survival of skates (Rajidae) caught by demersal trawlers fishing in UK waters. Fisheries Research 97 (1-2) 72-76
Ref -Cheung, W.W.L., T.J. Pitcher and D. Pauly, 2005. A fuzzy logic expert system to estimate intrinsic extinction vulnerabilities of marine fishes to fishing. Biol. Conserv. 124:97-111 www.fishbase.org