New wildlife crime leaflet to protect the Common Skate

Date published: 20 June 2017

A new leaflet was launched today to raise awareness about the Common Skate and to remind recreational sea anglers that it is a protected species in Northern Ireland.

Part of the ongoing ‘Watch out for Wildlife Crime’ public awareness campaign by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime NI (PAW NI) the new guidance aims to better protect our Common Skate.

Common Skate is an endangered species and is protected in Northern Ireland out to six nautical miles. While once abundant, it has become very rare in UK shallow seas and in European waters.

It is a criminal offence to intentionally or recklessly take, injure or kill Common Skate and sea anglers must not deliberately target Common Skate. The maximum penalty on summary conviction for such an offence is a fine of £5,000 and/or imprisonment for six months.

Speaking at today’s launch of the new leaflet at the Coastal Zone in Portrush, Marine Scientist at DAERA Dr. Joanne Hanna said: “The new leaflet on the Common Skate is a great opportunity to raise awareness about this protected species. With the support of recreational sea anglers we hope that this magnificent fish will continue to return to its former haunts around Northern Ireland.”

PSNI wildlife liaison officer, Emma Meredith, welcoming the launch of the leaflet said: “We take all reports of wildlife crime seriously and are pleased to be working with our partners within the PAW group. This is a wonderful initiative to raise awareness about this species.”

PAW NI is a group which helps statutory and non-government organisations to work together to combat wildlife crime. The objectives of PAW NI are to:

  • raise awareness of wildlife legislation and the impacts of wildlife crime;
  • help and advise on wildlife crime and regulatory issues; and
  • make sure wildlife crime is tackled effectively.

The Department has been the chair/secretariat of PAW NI since its formation in 2007 and PSNI is the vice chair.  With over 20 members and an estimated wider audience, through the members’ followers, of well over 250,000 people, PAW NI has a significant reach across Northern Ireland.

More information on the work of the PAW can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Information on Marine Wildlife licensing for anyone involved in schemes/projects for Common Skate is available on the DAERA website.

To report a wildlife crime for Common Skate please call DAERA on: 028 90 56 9262 or the PSNI on 101.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Photo caption - A new awareness leaflet about the Common Skate has been published, reminding recreational sea anglers that it is a protected species in Northern Ireland. At the launch of the leaflet are (From left-right) are; Constable Darryl Robinson, Neighbourhood Policing Team, Causeway, Coast and Glens,  Emma Meredith, PSNI Wildlife Liaison Officer, Dr Joanne Hanna, Marine Scientist at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and Paul McAleavey, Senior Fisheries Officer, DAERA. 
  2. The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (as amended) provides protection for animal species that are considered vulnerable from a national perspective. Common Skate was included on Schedule 5 to the Wildlife Order through the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011, as a result of a wider International Oslo Paris Commission (OSPAR) Recommendation.
  3. A Wildlife Licence may be issued to authorise what would otherwise be an offence under the wildlife legislation for specific purposes including the ringing or marking of animals, photography (associated with tagging) and scientific, research or educational purposes. It is also in line with the programmes and measures included in OSPAR Recommendation, which advocates the collection of data on size, condition of fish together with their location in order to determine areas where these species, and critical habitats for them, occur.  It is a requirement of the scheme that, anyone undertaking tagging must be appropriately trained through the Northern Ireland tagging scheme run by Ulster Wildlife and the Department. The licence holder must ensure that they act in accordance with best practice guidance produced by the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network and the Shark Trust. This requirement applies both within the area where skate are afforded strict legal protection and beyond.
  4. Enforcement action can be taken by both the PSNI and officers appointed by the Department. Advice and guidance will often be the first route to securing compliance. However, this is dependent on both the severity and impact of the non-compliance. The Department will also seek to educate stakeholders and the public to avoid breaches in the first place. It is hoped that changing behaviour through licensing, together with the training and guidance on best practice, will achieve protection of the species and raise awareness in relation to the potential impacts of sea angling on marine species more widely.
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  6. For media enquiries please email DAERA Press Office or tel: 028 9052 4619. Out of office hours, contact the Duty Press Officer on pager 07623 974 383 and your call will be returned.

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