Abundance, distribution and habitat characteristics of winter skate in the Gulf of St Lawrence

paperPublished online on 12. February 2013

Abundance, distribution and habitat characteristics of winter skate Leucoraja ocellata in the southern Gulf of St Lawrence:
a population on the brink of extirpation?

J. T. Kelly and J. M. Hanson

ABSTRACT:

Abundance indices of southern Gulf Leucoraja ocellata residing in Northumberland Strait, Canada, declined from 2001 to 2005, but increased during 2006 to 2008. Catch rates in 2009 were the lowest in the time series. The size of the area occupied in Northumberland Strait varied with changes in the abundance indices. Leucoraja ocellata were primarily caught in the north-west half of the strait over sandy to gravelly seabed; a near total absence was documented from the eastern half despite suitable habitat and a previously established presence documented during research surveys conducted before 2000. In Northumberland Strait, L. ocellata occupied shallow (50% cumulative occurrence = 12 m) and warm (50% cumulative occurrence = 16·5° C) coastal waters and were not present in the cold (<1° C, >35 m) intermediate layer. Abundance and distribution data highlight the need for continuing studies to monitor the status of this population, which is classified as endangered by the IUCN and Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Journal of Fish Biology. Early View Version, doi: 10.1111/jfb.12028

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