The Scottish Shark Tagging Programme (SSTP) has seen some amazing results during its 6 years off tagging sharks.
Recently a common skate originally tagged, in an Irish tagging programme, in Ballycastle Bay Northern Ireland in March 2003, was recaptured twice by anglers fishing off the Scottish coast after having been at liberty for 4182 days and gaining 132 pounds.
That is in itself unusual as common skate are generally considered to be a static species, however, what makes the two recaptures even more unusual, is that although there was 113 sea miles between them but coincidentally, both were caught aboard the same charter boat – “Onyer Marks Too” skippered by Matty Burrett.
The first recapture was by Alex Wilkie when the fish was taken off Port Logan SW Scotland on the 2nd September 2014 and then, just 6 weeks later, it was recaptured by Jason Kerrigan, off Crinan in the Sound of Jura – on both occasions the fish was safely returned to the water.
The SSTP typically identifies special fish by giving them a nickname so ‘Wandering Star’ now joins ‘YoYo’ and ‘Beaky’, fish which have been recaptured 8 and 10 times respectively and ‘Stumpy’ who has a very short tail.
For the last three years the SSTP has been working alongside Marine Scotland Science staff undertaking a series of projects to learn more about the migratory patterns of the common skate.
Project Director, Ian Burrett: “These remarkable recaptures endorse the finding of a recent paper, written by Marine Scotland Science, which suggests some skate are residential fish and others carry out migrations and return to areas such as Crinan. They also show how vital communication between tagging programmes is if we are to actively support the ‘Citizen Science’ efforts of volunteer sea anglers and gather the data required to help effectively manage the endangered skate population.”
To help minimise the continued depletion of the remaining stocks of common skate, the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network (SSACN), who run the SSTP, proposed a Marine Protected Area (MPA) enclosing areas around the Sound of Jura to Loch Sunart.
The proposal has recently been approved and given that the Marine Scotland Science paper identifies that whilst it is not known how significant shallower habitats are to skate, management measures should consider that they may also be important to the persistence of common skate in the region, consequently any proposed management measures should protect the entirety of the MPA from destructive forms of commercial fishing, rather than just the deep areas traditionally associated with the species.