Species Profile

Smooth Skate Funk Island Deep population

Scientific Name: Malacoraja senta
Taxonomy Group: Fishes
COSEWIC Range: Newfoundland and Labrador, Atlantic Ocean
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2012
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A2bc
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: There have been steep declines in abundance of both adult and young individuals in this designatable unit (DU) since the early 1980s. While numbers of adults appear to have increased over the past five years, the overall abundance remains very low. These trends in abundance are matched by strong reductions in area of occupancy. There are no targeted fisheries for this species, and bycatches have been declining since the early 1980s. However, it has continued to decline even in areas with low trawling intensity.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in May 2012.
SARA Status: No schedule, No Status
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd):

No schedule - No Status

Individuals of this species may be protected under Schedule 1 under another name; for more information see Schedule 1, the A-Z Species List, or if applicable, the Related Species table below.

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Description

Smooth Skate (Malacoraja senta) belongs to the Class Chondrichthyes, which includes all shark and skate species. This species is one of the smallest skates in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, growing up to 66 cm in length and weighing up to 1.2 kg. This species is distinguished from other skates in Canadian waters primarily by the combination of its long tail (equal in length to its body length) and 2 “triangles” of thin, opaque cartilage on its snout. Smooth Skate less than 1 year old (Young-of-the-Year or YOY skates) can be distinguished from other young Northwest Atlantic skates by 1–4 irregular pale “crossbars” or “half-bars” on its tail.

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Habitat

Smooth Skate is native to the continental shelf off of North America — the only location in the world where this species lives. It is found from southern Georges Bank (south of Cape Cod) north to the Labrador Shelf (Hopedale Channel). Smooth Skate are not continuously distributed throughout their range and are considered to form four populations that are geographically isolated based on water temperature, depth, and other factors that are not yet understood. The Funk Island Deep population is found around the northeast part of Newfoundland and Labrador on the Northeast Newfoundland Shelf and off southern Labrador. Smooth Skate usually live at depths between 70 and 480 m and in water temperatures of 2.7–10 °C. Densest concentrations of Smooth Skate occur in troughs surrounding shallower banks, where seawater is warmer. They are found mostly on soft mud (silt and clay), but also on sand, broken shells, gravel, and pebbles. This species is very selective in its diet, eating primarily small bottom-dwelling invertebrates (shrimp, euphausiids, mysids, amphipods, or “sea lice”) throughout most of its life; though, larger Smooth Skate also eat small groundfish.

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Biology

Smooth Skate reproduce by laying an embryo in a hard-shelled egg case (“Mermaid's purse”) on the bottom of the ocean and each female produces 40–100 large egg cases per year. The skate embryo develops for 1–2 years inside the egg case and hatches as a fully formed juvenile of 7–10 cm in length. Little is known about predators of Smooth Skate, but the embryo developing inside an egg case has sometimes been found eaten by a shell-drilling gastropod, while juveniles and adults may be eaten by marine mammals, other skates, and larger fish. Smooth Skate live at least 15–25 years.

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Threats

COSEWIC identified the following main threats to the Funk Island Deep population of Smooth Skate in Canada: • Temperature – The Funk Island Deep population is most likely at the coldest thermal fringe of its distribution, and as a result, survival could be affected when temperature is lower than normal. • Fishery bycatch – There are no directed fisheries for any Smooth Skate population, but Smooth Skate are taken as bycatch in fisheries targeting other groundfish species. Even though bycatches have been declining since the early 1980s, the population has continued to decline even in areas with low trawling intensity.

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Protection

Federal Protection

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

4 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Smooth Skate, Funk Island Deep population (2013-01-03)

    There have been steep declines in abundance of both adult and young individuals in this designatable unit (DU) since the early 1980s. While numbers of adults appear to have increased over the past five years, the overall abundance remains very low. These trends in abundance are matched by strong reductions in area of occupancy. There are no targeted fisheries for this species, and bycatches have been declining since the early 1980s. However, it has continued to decline even in areas with low trawling intensity.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2011-2012 (2012-10-05)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (September 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012) from November 21 to 25, 2011 and from April 29 to May 4, 2012. On February 3, 2012, an Emergency Assessment Subcommittee of COSEWIC also assessed the status of the Tri-colored Bat (Perimyotis subflavus), the Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus), and the Northern Myotis (Myotis septentrionalis). During the current reporting period COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 67 wildlife species. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2011-2012 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 1 Extirpated: 4 Endangered: 29 Threatened: 10 Special Concern: 15 Data Deficient: 2 Not at Risk: 6 Total: 67 Of the 67 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 49 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment (see Table 1a).

Consultation Documents

  • Smooth Skate Consultations on listing under the Species at Risk Act (Funk Island Deep and Laurentian-Scotian Populations) (2015-05-25)

    The purposes of the Species at Risk Act are to prevent the disappearance of wildlife species, to provide for their recovery and to encourage the management of special concern species. All Canadians have a role to play in the conservation of wildlife species. Before deciding whether the Smooth Skate (Funk Island Deep and Laurentian-Scotian Populations) will be added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk, we would like your opinions, comments and suggestions regarding the possible ecological, cultural and economic impacts of listing this population under the Species at Risk Act. Submit your comments here: for the Funk Island Deep population; for the Laurentian-Scotian population
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