Utilization of pop-up satellite archival transmitting tags to evaluate thorny skate (Amblyraja radiata) discard mortality in the Gulf of Maine groundfish bottom trawl fishery

  • April 26, 2021
  • by Ryan Knotek, Jeff Kneebone, James Sulikowski, Tobey Curtis, Joseph Jurek, and John Mandelman


Thorny skate (Amblyraja radiata) remain one of the most overfished species in the Gulf of Maine (GOM) despite being designated as a prohibited (zero possession, mandatory release) species by the New England Fishery Management Council in 2003. To better understand the extent to which discard mortality (DM) occurring after incidental capture in the GOM groundfish bottom trawl fishery may be impeding recovery, 75 individuals (55–94 cm total length, TL) were tagged with pop-up satellite archival transmitting (PSAT) tags and monitored for up to 28 days following capture under representative commercial trawl fishing practices. Data recovered from 61 PSAT-tagged skate were analysed with a longitudinal survival analysis to estimate DM and identify influential capture-related variables. DM rate was a function of TL, with larger skates (>70 cm; DM¼16.5%) experiencing lower mortality than smaller conspecifics (55–70 cm; DM¼24.5%). From our results, we estimate annual thorny skate DM in the GOM groundfish bottom trawl fishery to be 79.260.2 mt, which accounts for <1% of the existing stock biomass in the GOM (8400 mt). This study confirms that thorny skate are relatively resilient to bottom trawl fishing practices in the GOM, and suggests that other sources of mortality may be impeding population recovery.