Skates and Rays

5 of 7 families

Five of the seven most threatened families of sharks and rays are, in fact, rays. One of these is the sawfishes (Family Pristidae) comprising five species that are arguably the most endangered fishes on Earth.

Like sharks, the batoid fishes—skates, rays, and their relatives—are heavily fished around the world, including for human consumption and international trade. They are taken in targeted fisheries and, also, as secondary catch or discarded bycatch in fisheries directed at other species. Skates and rays comprise a growing proportion of world fishery catches of cartilaginous fishes.

A recent analysis of conservation status information for all the cartilaginous fishes concluded that the batoid fishes are more threatened as a group than sharks. They need much more attention and conservation effort. This is particularly the case for the endangered sawfishes as well as many species of guitarfish and wedgefish. Skates are heavily fished and traded around the world for human consumption. The "skate wings" sold in fish markets and restaurants are, in fact, the fins of these flat fishes.

WCS is actively involved in a range of conservation efforts for the batoids. In Gabon, we are documenting the seasonal appearance of migrating manta rays, investigating fisheries and trade in mantas, and advising on protection needs. In Madagascar, Tanzania, and elsewhere, we are supporting efforts to locate and protect endangered sawfishes, while in the U.S., we are advising fisheries management bodies and expanding outreach on behalf of stronger efforts for skates (as well as sharks and rays).


WCS

In Action

Between 2014 and 2015, WCS's Wildlife Crimes Unit assisted the government of Indonesia in the arrest of 17 major illegal shark and ray traders, nine of whom have received prison sentences or steep fines. These prosecutions are the first under Indonesia's new nationwide protection of manta rays, and the first prosecutions for illegally trading in marine species in Indonesia. The prices and availability of manta gill plates at two well-known trading sites have now fallen, as traders have begun to stop buying mantas. Manta fishers are now requesting assistance to transition to legal fishing or other occupations.

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