Last week came with news for the thorny skate. Various groups have been pushing to have the species listed as threatened. But a governmental report states that its numbers are quite too high for such a listing.
The thorny skate is a Rajidae family species. It mostly lives at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean coastline. This species can usually be found in waters 20 to 1,000 meters deep. Specimens were also detected in Lake Melville, Labrador. As the rivers empty into this lake, its bottom is also mostly made up of sand.
Presently, the thorny skate is considered as being “Vulnerable”. But recently, due to the population number drops, environmental groups and wildlife advocates have been pushing for a change.
They have been trying to change the species’ status. And have the thorny skate listed as “Endangered” on the ESA list. This is the Endangered Species Act.
The bottom-dwelling fish population numbers marked a significant drop. Their sharpest decline was noted in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. Back in the 1970s, the thorny skate population registered its peak period. But things have greatly changed since then.
Surveys targeting the recent catch show the following fact. Current population numbers are actually less than 5 percent of the numbers registered during their 1970s peak period.
This led the Animal Welfare Institute and Defenders of Wildlife to call on the federal government. Which released a report on the matter last week. On February 25th, the authority released its study result. They concluded that the thorny skate still has a quite numerous population. As such, it does not fit the ESA endangered status.
The ESA list is a federal law. It offers special protections to about 2,000 endangered, threatened, or critically endangered species. It includes both animals and plants. And it offers them protection as it imposes special hunting, fishing, or logging bans, to give just a few examples.
In its Friday report, the federal authority recognized the thorny skate’s falling numbers. Nonetheless, it pointed out that the remaining population numbers are still quite ‘numerous’. And this can be noted throughout most of their range. The species reportedly numbers hundreds of millions of specimens.
Adding the thorny skate to the ESA list would have come with its changes. It may have added some new fishing restrictions. And it may have also led to a habitat protection.
Thorny skates living in the Gulf of Maine inhabit a key commercial fishing area. Back in 2003, fishermen started being prohibited from harvesting the species. But thorny skates are still taken as bycatch sometimes. Skates are useful as both bait and food. Its meat came to be referred to as “skate wing”.
As it is, according to the Friday report, the thorny skate is not in danger of becoming extinct. At least not in the near future. As such, its listing on the ESA list is not justifiable.
Following the report release, Tara Zuardo released a statement. She is an Animal Welfare Institute attorney. On February 25, she expressed the group’s disappointment with the ruling. Zuardo also pointed out their disagreement on the matter of overfishing. The group believes that the species is, in fact, subjected to such practices.
Zuardo also pointed out the following. Besides the fishing factor, the thorny skate is also affected by climate change. And other factors as well are making an impact on the species.
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