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Small eyed ray

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Small eyed ray by Marc Dando


Small-eyed ray is a small species of ray which is a member of the skate family, like all skates it lays eggs and has a spiny tail that lacks a sting. It is commonly marketed as skate wings. This species is commonly found around the north coast of Cornwall and is abundant in the Bristol channel.  It is easily identified by its colour a sandy background with pale lines running parallel with the front edges of the wings.

Sustainability Overview

Stocks of all skates and rays are poorly studied in our area but the latest advice from ICES scientists is that stocks of small-eyed ray are declining and they advise landings are reduced by 36% in 2015. The International Conservation Union (IUCN) have rated the species as "Near Threatened" in the northeast Atlantic. It is not recommended that you buy skate wings that are smaller than 22cm.  

Sustainability ratings for this species

All Applicable Methods

Cornish boats landing to Cornish ports

This species is caught using many methods but for this species all are scored the same by Cornwall Good Seafood Guide.

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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.


Small-eyed rays belong to the Rajidae family which includes skates and rays. Small-eyed rays are a small to medium sized inshore and coastal species, attaining a maximum length of 80 to 90cm and weight of 8kg. All skates are slow growing and produce few eggs per year compared to commercially targeted fin fish. Males and females mature from 44 to 58cm in length. Age at maturity and maximum age is unknown. Small-eyed rays produce between 54 and 61 eggs per year. They have a high level of biological vulnerability 62/100 Cheung et all 2005. (

Stock Info

The state of the stock in this area is unknown. ICES has not defined reference points for this stock and there is no analytical assessment presented for it. Abundance for this stock is however estimated to have decreased and ICES advises that landings should be reduced by 36%. This implies landings of 188t in each of 2015 and 2016. Over the past 7 years or more the North Devon Fishermen's Association (NDFA) have collected species-specific landings data for small-eyed and other ray species in the Bristol Channel. This data reports that landings are increasing despite reduced effort in the fishery suggesting the small-eyed ray population in the fished area is stable and the fishery sustainable. Small-eyed ray represents about 28% of the total ray species landed by the NDFA in 2013. The International Conservation Union (IUCN) have rated the species as "Near Threatened" in the Northeast Atlantic.


There is no minimum landing size for small-eyed rays in Cornwall and there is no specific management plan. They are part of a mixed quota along with spotted, cuckoo, blonde 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. Across the border in Devon a fisher led initiative is improving the sustainability of ray fisheries which may help Cornish stocks indirectly.
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

Small eyed ray are 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 Advice 2016 Celtic sea
ICES Advice 2016 western Channel
MMO landings data
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 
ICES Advice Rays and Skates in the Celtic sea ecoregion 2013
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
Ref  -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

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