Skate and Ray Management in the Northwest Atlantic: An Overview of Current Management and Recommendations for Conservation
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Skates and rays are among the most vulnerable of exploited marine fish, not only due to target catches, but also because of high bycatch and discard rates in ground fisheries. This thesis reviews existing management measures for skates and rays in the Northwest Atlantic and assesses the need for transboundary management. The US and Canada have developed National Plans of Action for Sharks, which include sections on skate (but not ray) management. Target species are typically assessed and managed in some way, but bycatch species tend to be ignored. The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) set the world’s first skate quota by a Regional Fishery Management Organization; however, this quota is not set in line with scientific advice. There are problematic data gaps as skate landings in the US, Canada, and NAFO are not reported by species, which hinders the quality of stock assessments. The US and Canada have both prohibited retention of certain skate species, but rebuilding the stocks will take considerable time and additional protection measures must be implemented, particularly to reduce skate bycatch and discards. Top priorities to help address the conservation of skates and rays include: (1) collect and make public species-specific skate and ray landings and discard data, (2) implement skate quotas based on scientific advice, (3) implement bycatch reduction measures, (4) research the stock structure, life history, growth, and population dynamics of skates to further aid the development of reliable stock assessments, (5) initiate transboundary management between Canada and the US for skate stocks.