Thorny skate won’t get protection under ESA

Thorny skate won’t get protection under ESA

The thorny skate, a species of fish that mainly lives near the bottom of the coastline of North Atlantic Ocean, will not get protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the federal government agency has declared.

Various environmental groups and wildlife advocates had urged the federal authorities to add the thorny skate species to the endangered species list because the species’ population has declined significantly in the northwest Atlantic Ocean.

Surveys on recent catch of the thorny skate showed less than 5 per cent of the peak the species reached in the 1970s.

But, the National Marine Fisheries Service disagreed with the wildlife advocates, arguing that the decline in the thorny skate’s population is not enough to justify the species’ listing under the ESA.

Documents published in the Federal Register states, “The thorny skate is not currently in danger of extinction … However, the skates remain numerous throughout the greater portion of their range, numbering in the hundreds of millions.”

The ESA is a federal law that restricts logging, drilling and any other types of land use to special protections to nearly two thousand vulnerable animal and plant species. Listing of the thorny skate under the act could have led to new fishing restrictions and habitat protection.

The agency agreed with the petitioners that surveys of the skate have declined over time. Recent catch surveys show less than 5 percent of the peak they reached in the 1970s, the report stated.

However, the skates “remain numerous throughout the greater portion of their range, numbering in the hundreds of millions,” the report stated.

The thorny skate ranges from Greenland to South Carolina. Animal Welfare Institute and Defenders of Wildlife called on the federal government to offer the fish Endangered Species Act listing, which could’ve led to habitat protection or new fishing restrictions.

The skates live in the Gulf of Maine, a key commercial fishing area, and the call to protect them generated some resistance from fishing groups.

Tara Zuardo, an attorney for Animal Welfare Institute, said Saturday that the group is disappointed by the government’s ruling, and disagrees that the skate is not being subjected to overfishing.