A species of common skate is to become the first marine fish species to be driven to extinction by commercial fishing, due to an error of species classification 80 years ago, reveals research published today in the journal Aquatic Conservation.
The European common skate, Dipturus batis, has been on the World Conservation Union’s Red List of Threatened Species since 2006. Commercial landings are predominantly registered under the name ‘D.batis,’ however researchers, led by Dr Samuel Iglésias, show that ‘D. batis’ is in fact two clearly distinct species which have been incorrectly categorised as one since the 1920s.
From the mid-19th century the common skate was described as two distinct species, the flapper skate, D. intermedia, and the blue skate, D. flossada. However, in an influential work in 1926 R.S Clark recognised only ‘D. batis’ as a valid species and this classification has largely gone unchallenged since.
This classification confusion has resulted in the depletion of the flapper skate, the more endangered species of the two, being masked in the catch record. This means the risk of extinction is far higher than previously assessed and without immediate and incisive action the species may be in an irreversible decline towards extinction.
“The threat of extinction for European Dipturus together with mislabelling in fishery statistics highlight the need for a huge reassessment of population for the different Dipturus species in European waters,” concluded Iglésias. “Without revision and recognition of its distinct status the world’s largest skate, D. cf. intermedia, could soon be rendered extinct.”