Image: North East Dive

Flapper Skate face a greater risk of vanishing forever than giant pandas


Flapper skate (previously known as common skate) are members of the shark family (Elasmobranchs) and are the world’s largest skate.


Flapper Skate are found in the northern North Sea, around the Northern Isles and off Scotland’s north-west coast, usually at depths of 100-200m, but sometimes much shallower.


They are distinguished from rays by their pointed snout, diamond shape and spines along the tail. They are thought to reach 50-100 years old and reach sexual maturity after 11 years.


The Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura MPA is one of only two areas in the UK where skate are known to breed.

Flapper Skate

Dipturus intermedius

Image: Ian Burrett


Conservation status: Critically Endangered


Length: 3m


Weight: 113kg (249lb)


Age: 50-100

“The designation of the area as a Mission Blue Hope Spot is fantastic news, both for the local Flapper skate and for sharks, skates and rays throughout the UK. To have such a community-driven initiative is, I believe, reflective of all the hard work many people from different walks of life have put into the Marine Protected Area over the years.

The Flapper skate is one of our most iconic species, being the largest skate in Europe, and together with the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPA, is a flagship for conservation, highlighting how multiple stakeholders can work effectively together to really make a difference.

The increased awareness that the Hope Spot will bring will support the ongoing research in the area and hopefully pave the way to raising the profile of UK elasmobranchs, a group of animals that we largely know very little about.”

– Dr James Thorburn, St. Andrews University

Image: John Aitchison


Current Research

Research into the distribution and population health in the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPA is being carried out by Dr. James Thorburn and Scottish Natural Heritage. This involves tagging the skate with passive integrated transponder tags and photo ID catch and release projects to estimate their population, for which much of the data is provided by anglers.


Image: North East Dive


Egg cases found on beaches in Scotland can be recorded on the Shark Trust Great Eggcase Hunt website. This adds to our growing understanding of skate distribution, movements and breeding areas.




In the 1500s sailors invented a tradition to fake an item upon return from long voyages. This included cutting and drying skate into the shape of mermaids or demons, often known as Jenny Haniver.




Historically they were overfished and often caught as by-catch during trawl fishing. In 2009, it became illegal to land flapper skate commercially and in 2014, the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area was designated to protect the skate population found here. Bottom trawling accounted for 60% of skates and rays landed in the UK from 2007-2010, with the probability of survival estimated at 55-60%.



Get Involved

Become a citizen scientist by reporting your egg case (or mermaid’s purse) findings to the Shark Trust. These sightings provide information for scientists to determine the range of the sharks or skate and locate the areas they are breeding.


Report your sightings to the Shark Trust website.