About Us

The Orkney Islands support the largest known skate in the world – The Flapper Skate.

Orkney’s network of over 70 islands and skerries provide the perfect refuge – where the pristine marine environment gives optimum conditions for their survival.

Our ETHOS is CONSERVATION through RESEARCH and COLLABORATION to reverse the decline of this enigmatic apex predator of our seas. We believe that collectively the community and scientific institutions can work together to influence stake holders and policy makers, helping to PROTECT the Flapper Skate population and reverse the decline.

AIMS

The Orkney Skate Trust has the following goals:

  • Raise Awareness of the Critically Endangered Flapper Skate
  • Collect data on the biology and distribution of Flapper Skate in and around Orkney and the North of Scotland.
  • Partnership with Scientific Institutions to undertake and research Flapper Skate and publish results.
  • Provide free information on Flapper Skate to marine stakeholders, NGO and Government organisations to be used to influence marine planning and policy.
  • Support the community in citizen science, providing a platform for volunteers to become involved in marine science and field work.

HISTORY

Established in 2010 after the research of Daniel Wise who worked as a commercial diver, but had an academic background in marine biology. Daniel began to take an interest in the local population of Flapper Skate, which he would occasionally come into contact with during diving operations. He began recording Flapper Skate sightings at this point and, incorporating information from other divers, produced GIS maps of Flapper Skate sightings as well as records of live, in-situ egg cases.

Building on this foundation, Daniel decided to implement a project similar to the tag and release fishing programme based on the west coast of Scotland, managed by the Glasgow Museum – a project with over 3 decades of data. To achieve this Daniel established the Orkney Skate Trust (OST) – a voluntary group focused on researching and conserving the Orkney Flapper Skate population. The OST’s key objective is, through various research projects, to discover more about local Flapper Skate biology and ecology, as well as their spatial and temporal distribution and population dynamics. The aims of the research include the implementation of local conservation measures to specifically protect Flapper Skate, their nursery grounds and eggcases, while at the same time contributing scientific data to other conservation NGOs and government agencies.

With funding secured through the Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership the OST began phase 1 of the Orkney Tag and Release Fishing Programme: a Tag and Release training course (2010-2011). This project provides extensive training for local anglers focusing on correct methodology for tag and release skate fishing, including modules on biology and ecology, fishing techniques and equipment, correct handling of Flapper Skate and dart tag insertion and subsequent data collection.

Phase 2 of the programme sought to increase conservation awareness of local skate populations, while at the same time generating further interest in tag and release angling for Flapper Skate. Tag and Release angling is a non-destructive research technique providing scientific data on migration, growth rates, behaviour and population dynamics. A uniquely numbered dart tag is selectively inserted into the skate; data recorded includes capture location, date, fish length, width and weight. Upon later recapture of the fish the same data is recorded. The findings can then be studied to determine valuable information on the life history of Flapper Skate, including temporal and spatial movements, as well as growth rates and fish condition.

The Orkney Skate Trust now maintains a large Flapper Skate (previously named Common Skate) record database concerning the critically endangered species in Orkney – one of the most important geographical areas left that maintain a population of these fish.

ORGANISATION

The Orkney Skate Trust is a constituted community group run using a standard format consisting of chairman, secretary and treasurer – along with committee / members. Membership is currently free and open to all. The Orkney Skate Trust strongly relies on the community to record findings and sighting of skate activity. We receive records from beach walkers, divers, anglers and generally people out and on the seas around Orkney and beyond. We record this information and it helps us to better understand how these rare fish are surviving and how best we might be able to assist with their survival.

Contact us by email on: info@orkneyskatetrust.co.uk

SUPPORTERS

The Orkney Skate Trust work is supported by many organisations including:

  • Orkney Islands Council
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • ICIT
  • Queens University Belfast
  • WWF Netherlands
  • Dutch Shark Society
  • The Shark Trust

The Orkney Skate Trust is not routinely funded, making it difficult to run regular programmes of data collection and research. We would like to recognise the following organisations who have enabled funding in the past:

  • The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership
  • The National Lottery – Awards for All & The Big Lottery Fund
  • World Wide Fund for Nature – Netherlands