Winter Skate (southern Gulf of St. Lawrence population)

Raja ocellata

SARA Status
No Status
NS
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

SARA Status

  • No Status NS
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX
COSEWIC Status
Not at Risk
NR
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

COSEWIC Status

  • Not at Risk NR
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX

Description

The winter skate is an ocean ground dwelling marine fish with a flattened body, large wing-like fins, a long slender tail, a rounded snout and spots on its back. Its back varies in color from pale brown to dark brown with black spots and one or more larger white spots located near the rear corner of each pectoral fin. These spots help to distinguish it from other skates. Its other side, the belly, is white.

The winter skate is one of the largest species of skates in Atlantic Canada, reaching lengths of upwards of 110 cm. However, in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, winter skate mature and grow to considerably smaller sizes than anywhere else in their range. For example, female winter skate are mature by 42 cm in the southern Gulf, but 50% of winter skate are mature at 75 cm on the eastern Scotian Shelf.

Habitat

The winter skate is mostly found on sandy or gravelly bottoms, usually in depths less than 110 metres, although they have been caught at depths approaching 400 metres. In the Southern Gulf, winter skate occupy shallow inshore areas in summer to early autumn, dispersing broadly on the eastern Scotian shelf during winter. Winter skate have been reported in waters ranging between -1.2°and 19° C. Winter skate in the Southern Gulf experience temperatures on the upper end of this range during the summer due to their coastal distribution.

Winter Skate as described in the following paragraphs.

This map indicates winter skate distribution for the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence population.

The heavy lines show the boundaries for each population or Designatable Unit (DU) of Winter Skate. The southwestern region is the Western Scotian Shelf-Georges Bank DU. The line across Georges Bank is drawn along the Canada-US border. The southeastern region is the Eastern Scotian Shelf-Newfoundland DU, and the northern region is the Gulf of St. Lawrence DU.

Threats

The winter skate's slow population growth rate is caused by its delayed age at maturity, and low fecundity. Abundance of mature individuals in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence is at a historically low level, averaging 50,000 adults in surveys conducted over the past five years (2009-2013). Similar surveys completed from 1971-1975 averaged 3,160,000 adults.

There is no directed fishery for winter skate in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Declining population numbers are attributed to natural mortality, such as predation, in conjonction with bycatch.

Further Information

For more information, visit the Species at Risk Public Registry.

Winter Skate (southern Gulf of St. Lawrence population)

Winter Skate

Winter Skate

Scientific name: Raja ocellata
SARA Status: No Status
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
Regions: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador

Did You Know?

Winter skate is one of the largest species of skates in Atlantic Canada, measuring more than 110 cm in length. However, in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, winter skate become mature and develop at a size much smaller than elsewhere in their distribution range. For example, the female winter skate is mature at 42 cm in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, but 50% of winter skates are mature at 75 cm on the Scotian Shelf.

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