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Bottomfish Identification: Sharks, Skates and Ratfishes

Sandpaper Skate
Bathyraja kincaidii

Caught incidentally in the commercial fishery off the Washington coast with otter-trawls.  Caught incidentally by recreational harvesters off the outer Washington coast and in Puget Sound. 

Description:The body of an adult sandpaper skate is slate black on the dorsal side and white on the ventral surface.  Juveniles are uniform gray brown with small brown spots on the dorsal side.   A single row of strong sharp spines runs continuously from the first dorsal fin down the mid-back and onto the tail.  The snout is short, soft and triangular.  The caudal fin is reduced and the pelvic fins are large and deeply notched.  All fins are covered with scales.  The dorsal surface feels rough.

Maximum Size: To 86 cm (2.8 ft) in length.

Maximum Age: At least 18 years old.

Range/Habitat: The sandpaper skate ranges from Cape Navarin in the Bering Sea and Agattu Island in the Aleutian Islands, to Cortez Bank, southern California.They are found from 23 to 1,500 m (75-491 ft) in depth but are most common at moderate depths of 200 to 500 m (656-1,640 ft). They are most commonly  found on mud or sand bottoms.

Sources:  McEachran, J.D. and K.A. Dunn, 1998. Phylogenetic analysis of skates, a morphologically conservative clade of elasmobranchs (Chondrichthyes: Rajidae). Copeia 1998(2):271-290.

Rinewalt, C.S., D.A. Ebert and G.M. Cailliet,  2009.  Food habits of the sandpaper skate, Bathyraja kincaidii (Garman, 1908) off central California: seasonal variation in diet linked to oceanographic conditions.  In Biology of Skates.  Springer Netherlands. Pp.41-57.

Photo: E. Wright and K. Hinton