Photography project launched to help save endangered fish

Anglers are being urged to help save a critically endangered fish by taking photographs of any caught.

The common skate – which can grow to more than 2m in length and weigh more than 90kg – is at greater risk of extinction than the giant panda.

People are being encouraged to send any photographs to Skatespotter, a new online catalogue.

The project aims to help conserve the diamond-shaped species through identifying individual fish by the distinctive spot patterns on their backs and studying their movements.

Dr Jane Dodd, marine operations officer at Scottish Natural Heritage, said: “We’re launching Skatespotter with more than 1,500 images of nearly 800 individual flapper skate, taken by volunteer anglers in the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura Marine Protected Area (MPA).

“This MPA has a healthy population of the endangered fish, which made it easier to collect photographs, and anglers have been fundamental in providing the data to designate the area as an MPA – but to understand skate movements and populations we want to see anglers’ photographs of skate from all over Scotland.”

Common skate have been listed as critically endangered since 2006 as a result of overfishing.

Skipper Ronnie Campbell photographing skate
Skipper Ronnie Campbell takes a photo of a skate (Jane Dodd/SNH)

In 2009, it became illegal to land the species in most of Europe, which means any caught as bycatch should be released unharmed.

All angling for this species in Scotland is on a catch and release basis.

Recapturing previously identified skate suggests there is no harm to the fish when released.

However, common skate are still at risk from unintentional capture in mobile gear such as trawls and dredges.

Anglers can help monitor the skate population by uploading photographs to https://skatespotter.sams.ac.uk/

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