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Small eyed ray

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Small eyed ray by Marc Dando


Small-eyed ray is a small species of ray which is a member of the skate family, like all skates it lays eggs and has a spiny tail that lacks a sting. It is commonly marketed as skate wings. This species is commonly found around the north coast of Cornwall and is abundant in the Bristol channel.  It is easily identified by its colour; a sandy background with pale lines running parallel with the front edges of the wings.

Sustainability Overview

Stocks of all skates and rays are poorly studied in our area.  The International Conservation Union (IUCN) have rated the species as "Near Threatened" in the northeast Atlantic. Following recent evidence of decline in Bristol Channel stocks of Small eyed rays ICES are advising a 50% decrese in landings.  It is not recommended that you buy skate wings that are smaller than 22cm.  Management of this species is poor as there is no limiting quota and it is hard for trawlers and netters to avoid accidental by-catch off this species. The survival rate of live discarded fish is better than with some other species. To improve this rating it would be great to see more fisher led initiatives, simmilar to the voluntary measures adopted by fishermen in the north Devon ray fishery.

Updated December 2020


Sustainability ratings for this species

All Applicable Methods

Cornwall, VIIe, f, g and h

This species is caught using many methods but for this species all are scored the same by Cornwall Good Seafood Guide.

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How we rate fish

Cornwall Good Seafood Guide rates fish on sustainability using a scale of 1 to 5.

1, 2 and 3 are recommended, Fish to avoid are rated 5.

We use the system devised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) so our scores are comparable with the scores produced by MCS for the UK and fisheries from all around the world. For more information on scoring click here.


Small-eyed rays belong to the Rajidae family which includes skates and rays. Small-eyed rays are a small to medium sized inshore and coastal species, attaining a maximum length of 80 to 90cm and weight of 8kg. All skates are slow growing and produce few eggs per year compared to commercially targeted fin fish. Males and females mature from 44 to 58cm in length. Age at maturity and maximum age is unknown. Small-eyed rays produce between 54 and 61 eggs per year. They have a high level of biological vulnerability 62/100 Cheung et all 2005. (

Stock Info

The state of the stock in this area is becoming better studied in recent years as recording of this species has become more accurate. ICES has not defined reference points for this stock and there is no analytical assessment presented for it. AThe International Conservation Union (IUCN) have rated the species as "Near Threatened" in the Northeast Atlantic.

ICES latest advice for the Bristol channel shows a decline in biomass of this species and it calls for a significant reduction in landings from over 300 tonnes landed in 2020 to a maximum of 123 tonnes landed in 2021. 


There is no minimum landing size for small-eyed rays in Cornwall and there is no specific management plan. They are part of a mixed quota along with spotted, cuckoo, blonde 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. Across the border in Devon a fisher led initiative is improving the sustainability of ray fisheries which may help Cornish stocks indirectly.

Capture Info

Small eyed ray are caught in beam trawls demersal trawls and gill nets. 
These fishing methods all have issues with accidental by-catch of non target species and impacts on the wider marine environment. For more information visit our fishing method pages for demersal trawling, gill netting and beam trawling.
Landings from the Bristol Channel and Celtic Sea are far larger (approx 300 tonnes per year) than the landings from the English Channel of this species (approx 40 tonnes)


ICES Advice 2020 Bristol Channel and Celtic S
ICES Advice 2020 English Channel 
ICES Advice 2018 Celtic Sea
ICES Advice 2018 English Channel
ICES Advice 2016 Celtic sea
ICES Advice 2016 western Channel
MMO landings data
Shark trust factsheets 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

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