AWI and Defenders of Wildlife filed a petition on May 28 with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to list the Northwest Atlantic population of the thorny skate (Amblyraja radiata) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Thorny skate populations in the Northwest Atlantic have declined rapidly over the past four decades, due mostly to excessive bycatch mortality and illegal harvest. Efforts to rebuild the populations by the United States and Canada have thus far failed, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature designates the US population of thorny skate as “critically endangered.”
AWI submitted a previous petition to list the thorny skate in 2011, which NMFS rejected, claiming that the scientific evidence did not warrant a listing. Internal agency documents obtained by AWI under the Freedom of Information Act, however, revealed that NMFS had initially planned to publish a positive finding, but inexplicably changed course. The new petition provides additional evidence of the populations’ decline and the undeniable need for an ESA listing.