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Undulate ray

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Undulate ray


A beautiful ray, a member of the skate family the undulate ray has striking undulating patterns of darker lines and spots across a pale grey to sand yellow background.

Sustainability Overview

This striking species of skate is rarely seen in Cornish waters but is common in the English Channel. Following over fishing and a prohibition on fishing for this species its population appears to have bounced back sucessfully and the latest scientific reports are backing up what fishers are reporting which is that stocks are high and that fishing levels are below that to acheive MSY. 
Catches of undulate rays are limited by quota.  
In 2021 a total of 3.8 tonnes of undulate ray were landed to Cornish ports with a value of £4.8k (MMO data).
Updated  April 2024.

Sustainability ratings for this species

Demersal Trawl

Cornish vessels landing to Cornish ports

Demersal trawls are large nets that are pulled through the water with the bottom edge of the net touching the seabed. At each edge the net is pulled open by metal ‘trawl doors’. Sometimes referred to as Otter trawling.

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Gill Netting

Cornish vessels landing to Cornish ports

Gill nets are lightweight nets made of nylon (monofilament) fishing line that are anchored to the seabed and are used to catch fish by entangling the gills.

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Beam Trawling

Cornish vessels landing to Cornish ports

Beam trawls are nets with a steel beam that holds the net open. The belly of the net is made of chains and the upper surface of the net is mesh. Beam trawlers pull two nets along the seabed simultaneously.

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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.


The undulate ray is a medium sized skate that grows to a maximum length of 100cm and weight of 10kg. The species lives for up to 20 years and is not sexually mature until it is 9 years old and 75cm in length. Eggs are laid from March to September. They live on the seabed and feed on a range of invertebrates, crustaceans, molluscs worms and fish.

Stock Info

Undulate ray in the English channel has recovered to a healthy state and is currently being harvested sustainably.

This stock was considered depleted since from 1990 until a landing ban was implemented in 2009, which lasted until 2014. It has since recovered to a healthy state. Following a stock benchmark in 2022, relative biomass (B) in is 1.77. This is above MSY Btrigger and Blim.

Fishing pressure (F) on the stock in 2021 was 0.32. This is below FMSY.

ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, landings in 2023 and 2024 should be no more than 4836 and 4675 tonnes respectively. This advice is substantially larger than the previous advice (2552 tonnes in 2021 and 2022), and it is not known how this will impact discard rates for undulate ray.

Small fish (less than 50cm) were not included in the ICES assessment. Any catch of small undulate ray would continue to be discarded with a high survival rate.

The stock of undulate ray in the English Channel is managed under a specific total allowable catch (TAC). This precautionary TAC has been increasing since 2016 as the biomass index has increased, however, it is constraining and results in high discard rates (e.g. 93% discarded in 2021). From 2019-2022, the TAC has been 234 tonnes for 7.d and 7.e combined. In 2023, the TAC increased substantially to 3,192 tonnes (with a 33% allocation to the UK). For the UK the commercial quota increased from 75t in 2022, to 1071t in 2023.


The undulate ray fishery in the English Channel has only recently reopened. Multiple management measures are in place, however, it is too soon to know if these measures will be effective.
The stock of undulate ray in the English Channel is managed under a specific TAC. This precautionary TAC has been increasing since 2016 following the biomass index but it is constraining, resulting in high discard rates.
Each calendar year, a fishing vessel may retain on board and land any undulate ray caught in the English Channel, provided that the following conditions are met:
No undulate ray may be caught between 1st May - 31st August
No more than 200kg of undulate ray (live weight) may be retained on board or landed per fishing trip
No undulate ray which measures less than 78 cm, or more than 97 cm, when measured from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail shall be retained on board or landed
No undulate ray may be transshipped
Undulate ray may only be retained on board or landed whole or gutted
Skates and rays caught in the Northwest waters (ICES subareas 6 and 7) and North Sea waters (ICES subareas 2a, 3a and 4) with all fishing gears, are exempt from the landing obligation, based on their high survivability rates. Any skates and rays that are discarded are required to be released immediately and below the sea surface. 

Capture Info

Skates and rays are often 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.


ICES Advice Undulate Ray English Channel 2023
ICES Advice 2022
IUCN red list Undulate Ray
MMO landings data
MMO Decision to maintain 200kg limit for 2024
MMO SW Quota Presentation 2022
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
ICES advice October 2014 Undulate ray in Celtic sea and West of Scotland.

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