Efforts to track and protect Scotland’s threatened skate population are being expanded.
An online resource for tracing the movements of some of the largest and rarest creatures has already discovered interesting details – including picking up the same male on 19 occasions.
The Skatespotter website, which includes details of 1,500 critically-endangered common or flapper skate, has been updated to include historic records that give an improved insight into the lives of individual fish over time.
The data reveals interesting details about the skate living in the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura Marine Protected Area (MPA) – designated to help protect the species.
Female skate are much more likely to be recaptured, because they tend to remain in the same area, while male skate are less common recaptures because they move around more.
Only five males have been captured more than 10 times, compared to 17 females.
However, one – known as Di000289 – is the most tracked male skate and is therefore very unusual, having been captured 19 times between 2016 and 2019 in the Firth of Lorn.
Common skate can grow to more than 2m in length and weigh more than 100kg but despite its name, the species has been listed as critically endangered since 2006 as a result of overfishing.
Jane Dodd, SNH marine operations officer for Argyll and the Outer Hebrides, said: “Expanding Skatespotter to include this historical data for the first time is really exciting because it gives us lots more history for some of the individual skate.
“It helps us to build up a better picture of their movements over time which will in turn contribute to the long-term conservation of the species across Scotland.
“We rely on anglers submitting photographs to the site, and now they will be able to search the website using the SSTP number or date to learn the history of any tagged skate they catch, which hopefully reinforces the great contribution they are making to understanding these amazing fish.”