What release practices best promote skate survival?

Fondation d’Enterprises des Mers Australes and The SARPC Toothfish fishery

Awarded: £27,000

This project, carried out in conjunction with the Paris National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) and the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF) will research the best ways to promote the survival of skates affected by fishing in the Southern Ocean. 

Skates are well adapted to their bottom-dwelling habitat. However, as a slow-growing species with low reproduction, they are vulnerable to fishing. 

The MSC certified SARPC toothfish fishery has implemented management measures to reduce its impact on skates. Improvements include developing 'cut-off' practices that release alive individuals and 'move-on' methods that avoid densely populated areas. But bycatch of skates still represents around 5% of their catch.

Fondation des Mers Australe are improving their knowledge of skate ecology and population sizes. They are also researching the effectiveness of cut-off practices. The SARPC fishery is providing detailed data going back to 2006 to complement an electronic tagging programme being undertaken by scientists. Findings could provide guidance for other toothfish fisheries in the area. 


Skates and rays are still poorly known species. Together with sharks they belong to a group with a particular biology that makes them very vulnerable to overexploitation. We hope that the international scope of the MSC will enable other fisheries facing the same phenomenon to also adopt the good practices that will result from it.

Delphine Ciolek Fondation des Mers Australes

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