Fishing: Skate on the brink thanks to species mislabelling

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The Independent Online

Due to an 83-year-old error of classification, a species of European skate could become the first marine fish driven to extinction by commercial fishing, according to a study released Wednesday.

In the 19th century, scientists identified two separate species of the once-widespread European skate, the flapper skate (Dipturus intermedia) and the blue skate (Dipturus flossada).

But an influential study in 1926 argued the two species were in fact one, which prompted a new name, Dipturus batis.

Since then, trawling has massively depleted all types of European skate stocks, with France accounting for more than 60 percent of landings.

New research, led by Samuel Inglesias of France's Museum of Natural History and using molecular analysis of DNA, proves once and for all that the initial classification was correct.

As a result of the overfishing, the flapper skate is on the fast track to being wiped out, the paper says.

"[Without] immediate and incisive action, the species may be in an irreversible decline towards extinction," Inglesias said in a statement.

The blue skate is in sharp decline but is still a viable species, the study says.

Iglesias said the discovery highlights the need "for a huge reassessment of population for the different Dipturus species in European waters."

The study was published in the journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.