Skates in the Bering Sea Indicate Overall Health of Alaska’s Marine Ecosystem

Written by on September 7, 2012 in Marine Life, Policy & Ocean Law
Big skate (Raja binoculata). Photo Credit: Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA.

Big skate (Raja binoculata). Photo Credit: Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA.

NOAA managers and scientists in Alaska are collaborating with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in order to identify productive habitats, or “habitat areas of particular concern” (HAPCs), in the area and determine if they require additional protective measures.

NOAA scientists have suggested that six areas in the Bering Sea should be labeled as HAPCs because they function as nursuries for skates.

Skates, unlike their sting ray and shark relatives, lay a few large, leathery eggs on the sea floor that are contained inside egg cases where they are protected from the elements.  In the cold waters of the North Pacific, skates can take up to three years to develop inside the egg case.

Therefore, skate nursuries require protection from destructive fishing methods like trawling that could damage the eggs.  Skate nurseries are worth protecting because they are a good indicator of the overall health of Alaska’s marine ecosystem, as they are a food source for many local animals including sperm whales, Stellar sea lions, sharks, halibut, and cod.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council plans to make a decision about the HAPCs during its meeting in Anchorage, Alaska in December of this year.

You can learn more here:

Skate egg case. Photo Credit: NOAA's NMFS.

Skate egg case. Photo Credit: NOAA’s NMFS.

Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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