Longnose Skate: Beringraja rhina

Family: Rajidae
Common name(s)

Longnose Skate.

Identification

A large skate with a wide kite-shaped disc. Disc width 1.2 x disc length. Snout very long and acutely pointed. Snout length 4-6 x orbit length. Eyes small. Anterior margins of pectoral fins broadly concave with a convex area at head level. Pectoral apices angular or narrowly rounded. Disc granular. Thorns on disc present around eyes, and nuchal and alar regions of adult males. Ventrum rough anteriorly. Pelvic fins strongly notched. Anterior pelvic lobe almost as long as posterior lobe. Tail short, slender, and depressed with broad lateral folds near tip. Tail thorns occur in multiple staggered rows. Tail length 0.65-0.81 x precloacal length. Dorsal fins broadly rounded and well separated. Caudal fin reduced to a low fold.

Colour

Dorsum usually reddish-brown or greyish-brown sometimes with indistinct darker spots or blotches. One relatively small, distinct blackish eyespot often with a pale centre on each pectoral fin, and one eye-sized white spot posterior to ocelli. Snout occasionally black. Ventrum usually greyish, mottled with dark spots and blotches.

Size

Maximum length 137cm, possibly larger. Length at hatching 12-17cm.

Habitat

Temperate seas. Demersal on sand, mud, and mixed rock and soft bottoms. Found coastally and on the continental shelf and slope. From 9-1294m, but most common between 200-400m.

Distribution

Northeast/North central Pacific. The longnose skate occurs from the southeastern Bering Sea to south of Punta Juanico on the Pacific Coast of Baja, and in the northern reaches of the Sea of Cortez.

Conservation Status

LEAST CONCERN

The Longnose Skate is targeted or taken as incidental bycatch in a variety of demersal fisheries. In the Gulf of Alaska bottom trawl and longline fishery for groundfish and halibut, Longnose Skates are taken incidentally and are retained. In Canadian waters, this species is targeted and caught incidentally and retained in commercial groundfish trawl and longline fisheries (King et al. 2015). Along the U.S. Pacific Coast, this species is taken in bottom trawl groundfish fisheries and sometimes retained. It was one of three commercially important skate species in California (Roedel and Ripley 1950, Martin and Zorzi 1993), and although the Californian trawl fishery has slowly reduced fishing effort in recent decades and this species is no longer targeted, its biomass is believed to be at ~60% of unfished levels (Gertseva et al. 2019). The only Mexican fishery that catches this species is the hake trawl fishery in the northern Gulf of California (this species was not recorded in artisanal fishery landings in Baja California or Sonora during 1998–1999; Bizzarro et al. 2009, Smith et al. 2009). The hake fishery operates at depths of <300 m (Castillo Géniz et al. 2007), whereas the Longnose Skate occurs mostly below that depth giving it significant refuge in deeper water.

Citation

Bizzarro, J.J., Ebert, D.A., Herman, K. & Kyne, P.M. 2020. Beringraja rhinaThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T161595A80677015. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T161595A80677015.en. Downloaded on 21 April 2021.

Reproduction

Oviparous. Egg cases are deposited in pairs. Each case rarely contains multiple embryos.

Diet

Adult longnose skates mainly consume bony fishes.

Behavior

Often partially or completely buries under sand and silt.

Reaction to divers

Very docile. Remains motionless unless molested or approached from above as this mimics the predatory approach of orcas or large sharks.
Tolerant of divers wafting sand away from their backs if done slowly.

Diving logistics

Longnose skates are rarely encountered by divers but they do occasionally show up in the northern part of their range where they tend to be in shallower water.

I have only seen one longnose skate. The encounter occurred in November in ~35m on a gently sloping sandy area at Deep Cove, near Victoria on Vancouver Island.
I have also seen numerous longnose skate egg cases at ~30m off Port Fidalgo in the Gulf of Alaska but no animals were present during May/June.

Similar species

Big Skate Distinguishable by proportionately shorter snout and larger ocelli without pale centres.