BEACON TRANSCRIPT – The populations of thorny skate have reached quite low numbers. However, this was not enough to convince the government to enlist them under the Endangered Species Act.
The fish dwells at great depths in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. The environmental activists noticed how the thorny skate populations alarmingly decreased in these areas, so they tried to persuade the authorities that the drop was big enough to grant them special protection under the Endangered Species Act.
However, the National Marine Fisheries Service do not agree with the environmental groups. They published a document which stated that the thorny skate was not in danger of extinction either in all its range or only in a significant part. Also, they stated that the fish would not be in danger of extinction any time soon.
Despite this decline to list the species as endangered, they agreed that the skate populations had decreased in the last few years. Recent catch surveys report less than 5 percent of the peak number they reached back in the 1970s.
Given that massive decrease, the thorny skates still remain numerous enough if you take a look at their entire population. The report counted all thorny skate specimens and they found that they reached hundreds of millions.
The thorny skate can be found in the area between Greenland and South Carolina. The agencies that urged the government to offer protection to the species was the Animal Welfare Institute and the Defenders of Wildlife. An inclusion of the species on the Endangered Species Act could have led to the protection of their habitat or at least some more severe fishing restrictions.
The skates can also be found in the Gulf of Maine, area which is popular for the intense commercial fishing activity. Thus, the environmental agencies wanted to gain some protection for the thorny skates against certain fishing groups.
Tara Zuardo, attorney for the Animal Welfare Institute, declared that they did not share the government’s opinion regarding the overfishing of thorny skates. They are really worried about the negative impacts that climate change has on skate populations, as well as on other fish species.
Although people have been prohibited to harvest the thorny skate for commercial purposes since 2003, they still come as bycatch. Its meat is a little less expensive than others and this might be one reason for the sudden commercial interest.
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