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Fish #38 Common Skate Dipturus batis ~ Jane Rushby
I'd love to be able to tell you that I chose this fish because it was my
father in law's favourite to eat, and as it happens he died during the
period I was crocheting; indeed, I spent many hours crocheting at his home
and in the hospice while my husband and mother in law cared for him in his
last days and hours. However, the honest truth is that it was one of the few
available fish I had actually heard of, and I liked its spots!
As it happens, research published fairly recently (2009 and 2010) shows that the species Dipturus Batis is actually two separate fish, the smaller southern flossada (blue skate) and the larger northern intermedius (flapper skate). The large fish is the largest skate in the world, reaching a length of over 9 feet.
At the beginning of the C20 the fish was plentiful in the waters around the British Isles, where it was predominantly found at depths of 100-200m, as a bottom dwelling species, although it can occur as shallow as 30m and as deep as 1000m, such as along the edge of the continental shelf. It was reported by the Guardian in 2002 that the common skate is 'commercially extinct' however the thrust of the concern seemed to focus on the implications of this for stocks of other fish more popular for the table such as cod, herring and whiting which are also depleted owing to unsustainable fishing practices. The species was noted as 'critically endangered' in 2006 and its previous abundance in the northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean sea has been severely compromised and depleted.
The skate can live for 50-100 years, when they reach maturity they mate in the spring and females lay approximately 40 egg cases in sandy or muddy flats and the eggs develop for 2-5 months before hatching. When hatched, juveniles measure up to 9 inchers long, so it seems I have inadvertently crocheted a baby skate!
The common skate is a bottom feeder, its diet includes crustaceans, clams, oysters, snails, and small to medium-sized fish, including other skates! Some skates ascend the sea to feed on mackerel or herring. The skate could at first glance be rather a boring grey fish, however, on closer examination it features a range of blotches, spines, thorns and spots. I've employed artistic licence clearly, when depicting my baby skate, as well as in my interpretation of the North Sea.
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