Alaska Species Explorer

Alaska Skate

Common Name: Alaska Skate
Scientific Name: Bathyraja parmifera
Size: 135 cm (53 inches) total length

Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, Gulf of Alaska; western Bering Sea to Japan at a depth of 17-392 m (56-1286 feet)

Habitat: Generally soft bottom of sand, silt, or mud
Life History:

Alaska skates are a long lived species that are oviparous (egg laying) and reach maturity around 10 years of age. A female will lay eggs throughout the year and it is estimated that she will lay 20 to 40 egg cases each year. After an egg case is laid, it will sit on the bottom incubating for over 3.7 years before a single embryo emerges as a fully developed juvenile skate.

Diet in the Wild:

The diet of the Alaska skate changes as it grows. Small juvenile skates consume small crustaceans like gammarid amphipods and small hermit crabs and as they get larger they start mixing small fish to their diet like Pacific sand lance along with larger crab species. Over 75% of a large Alaska skate's diet can be fish species such as Atka mackerel and walleye pollock.

Natural Predators:

Hairy triton snails can prey upon the developing embryo by drilling through the tough egg case. After hatching, a young skate is vulnerable to predation by Pacific halibut and Pacific cod. Steller sea lions have been observed feeding on larger skates, and it is likely that other marine mammals will eat skates too.

Population Status: Stable
Additional Information:

The Alaska skate is perhaps the highest biomass skate species within Alaska waters. Although there currently isn't a direct fishery for skates in Alaska, there is ever present interest in developing one and retention of large skates caught in other fisheries does occur. They are primarily caught in hook and line fisheries and bottom trawl fisheries.

Fun Facts:

Several nursery areas have been identified within Alaska waters for skates. These can be over a square kilometer in area and some have egg densities over 100,000 eggs per square kilometer.