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Cuckoo Ray

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Cuckoo rays are a relatively small sized ray belonging to the skate family and are often marketed simply as skate wings. They are identified by 2 large, dark, false eyespots their sandy coloured back.  They havea rough upper skin with large skin teeth along the tail. The cuckoo ray is one of 5 similar Rajid skate species found in our waters. Identification of rays is not easy so ray landing records are not usually accurately broken down to species level.

Sustainability Overview

Skates and rays are slow growing, late maturing and lay a small number of eggs per year so are vulnerable to fishing pressure.  This species is not actively targeted but significant quantities are caught as bycatch in trawl and net fisheries.  Recent advice published by ICES shows that this species is doing well in UK waters and that stocks are healthy. Management (a mixed species quota) is poor for rays.  If you choose to buy skate be aware that when they have been skinned it is impossible to tell which species you are buying so please be careful and ask to see the ray before it is skinned to ensure you are not buying an unsustainable ray. 

86 tonnes of Cuckoo ray were landed to Cornish ports in 2021 with a value of £75k. (MMO landings data)

Updated July 2023

Sustainability ratings for this species

Beam Trawling

West of Scotland, Southern Celtic Sea, Western English Channel and Bay of Biscay (6, 7, 8a, 8b, 8d)

Caught using heavy beam trawl nets that are dragged over the seabed.

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Gill Netting

West of Scotland, Southern Celtic Sea, Western English Channel and Bay of Biscay (6, 7, 8a, 8b, 8d)

Caught using monofilament nets set on the seabed

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Demersal Trawl

West of Scotland, Southern Celtic Sea, Western English Channel and Bay of Biscay (6, 7, 8a, 8b, 8d)

A large trawl held open by paravane trawl doors, the open net is then pulled along in contact with the seabed.

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How we rate fish

Cornwall Good Seafood Guide rates fish on sustainability using a scale of 1 to 5.

1, 2 and 3 are recommended, Fish to avoid are rated 5.

We use the system devised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) so our scores are comparable with the scores produced by MCS for the UK and fisheries from all around the world. For more information on scoring click here.


A medium sized ray growing to a maximum length of 75cm. Cuckoo rays reach maturity at a length of around 60cm and an age of 4 to 5 years.  They lay between 70 and 150 eggs per year. They are most commonly found at depths of 200m on sandy and muddy seabeds. They are found in shallower areas but the juveniles seem to prefer to spend their time in deep water.

Stock Info

Cuckoo ray is now a benchmarked species due to improved scientitific data and analysis by ICES. In 2023  ICES advised that stocks are now above MSY and that fishing pressure is below MSY. They recommended that landings could be increased. Landings of cuckoo ray remained constant at around 150 tonnes per year landed to Cornish ports - a significant catch, but have dropped in 2020/21.


There is no specific management plan for cuckoo rays. They are part of a mixed quota (TAC) along with spotted, blonde, small-eyed and thornback rays in the Celtic Sea region. Quotas alone may not adequately protect these species as there are differences amongst species in their vulnerabilities to exploitation and a restrictive quota may lead to discarding. Instead seasonal and/or area closures, effort restrictions and measures to protect spawning grounds for example are recommended. There are no such measures in Cornwall however across the border North Devon fishermen have established a scheme that is making ray fisheries far more sustainable.
North Devon Fishermen's Association (NDFA) members voluntarily adhere to a minimum landing size (MLS) of 45cms (wing-tip to wing-tip) for all ray species to assist growth and spawning. For smaller ray species such as small-eyed ray this ensures fish are allowed to breed before they are fished. The NDFA represents an average of 70 fishermen and 650 members of the processing sector from South Wales and Cornwall as well as North Devon. It is also a founder member of the Seafish skates and rays group. By adopting initiatives to restrict landing sizes, identify conservation zones and improve catch reporting the NDFA has contributed to improved management of the ray fisheries in the Bristol Channel. Their fleet of 24 vessels is made up of both under 10 metre and up to 15.95 metre boats. The main fish landings are ray. Thornback, blonde, small eyed and spotted ray account for 70% of the NDFA whitefish landings. The fishery for ray is a year around fishery with the largest of landings being made late in the year. The closed area known as the Ray Box is closed to trawlers between December 1st and May 31st to protect juvenile ray and aid spawning. The area covers some 400 sq km. NDFA fishermen also comply with a Code of Practice. This practice requires that any ray below the voluntary minimum landing size of 45cm wide is handled with care and returned immediately to the sea in order to increase its chance of survival.

Capture Info

Caught in beam trawls, demersal trawls and gill nets. 
These fishing methods all have issues with by-catch of non target species and impacts on the wider marine environment.


ICES (2022): Cuckoo ray (Leucoraja naevus) in subareas 6 and 7, and in divisions 8.a–b and 8.d (West of Scotland, southern Celtic Seas, and western English Channel, Bay of Biscay). ICES Advice

MMO landings data to Cornish ports.
Shark trust factsheets Shark Trust; 2009. An Illustrated Compendium of Sharks, Skates, Rays and Chimaera. Chapter 1: The British Isles. Part 1: Skates and Rays.
Seafish responsible sourcing guides 
Enever, R., Revill, A., Grant, A. (2009) The survival of skates (Rajidae) caught by demersal trawlers fishing in UK waters. Fisheries Research 97 (1-2) 72-76
Cheung, W.W.L., T.J. Pitcher and D. Pauly, 2005. A fuzzy logic expert system to estimate intrinsic extinction vulnerabilities of marine fishes to fishing. Biol. Conserv. 124:97-111  

Cuckoo Ray on Fishbase

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