NOAA increases Northeast skate quota

27 Oct 2011

NOAA has increased the amount of skate that fishermen can land this year from 31 million to 48 million pounds, based on new scientific information showing an increase in the overall skate population.

The 56% quota increase takes effect immediately, and remains in effect through the end of the current fishing season which ends on 30 April 30 2012.

The New England Fishery Management Council has reviewed updated 2008-2010 trawl survey data from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, which shows significant improvements in the overall skate population. They also looked at NOAA-funded research on the survival of discarded skates, conducted by the New England Aquarium and University of New England, which found that fewer skates die after they are thrown overboard than previously assumed. Based this, the council asked NOAA to implement emergency measures to increase the skate quota.

The bulk of the skate catch occurs incidentally in the groundfish, monkfish and scallop fisheries. Skate wings are typically kept and sold as food. Skates are also harvested for bait for the American lobster fishery.

The quota for the skate wing fishery, which receives 66.5% of the annual allocation, will increase from 20 million pounds to 32 million pounds for the current fishing year. The skate bait fishery, which is allocated the remaining 33.5%, will see a 6 million pound increase in their original allocation.

Increasing the quota and maintaining skate possession limits at current levels should extend fishing opportunities throughout the entire fishing year, and allow fishermen to retain more skates when both price and demand for skate wings are better later in the season.

Seven species of skate are managed as part of the skate complex including barndoor, thorny, smooth, winter, little, clearnose and rosette. However, possession of barndoor, thorny, and smooth skates remains prohibited because stocks are still rebuilding from previously depleted levels.

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