Bat Ray

The Science

Bat Ray teeth form as flat plates and grow continuously, like their shark cousins [1]

The Fishery

Also known as the “Mud Marlin” by anglers because of the level of difficulty required to catch it. This fighting ability is one of the main draws for sport fishing of bat rays [6]

The Seafood

Rays and skates are seen as “trash fish” in America, but in France they are viewed as a delicacy [10]

The Science

bat ray
Robin Agarwal/CC BY-NC

Taxonomic description

  • Back is black or brown and belly is white [2]
  • Long, thin tail with stinger behind dorsal fin at base of tail [2,16]
  • Distinctive protruding head with bat-like “wings” for propulsion through the water [2]
  • Females up to 2 meter (6 ft) across and 90 kg (200 lbs); males smaller with the largest caught at about 1 m (3 ft) across and 17 kg (37 lbs) [1,7]

Distribution

  • Eastern Pacific, from Oregon to Gulf of California [2]

Life history

  • Lives up to 24 years solitarily or in schools; females aggregate during mating in the spring/summer [9,1,16]
  • Before mating, the male swims behind the female to detect chemical signals that indicate reproductive status; during mating, male swims underneath the female [16]
  • Aplacental viviparous, or internal fertilization and development of eggs with a live birth [16]
  • Litter size two to ten pups; gestation period nine to twelve months [1]

Habitat

  • Intertidal to max depth of 108 meters (350 ft); with nurseries in shallow waters of bays and sloughs [13]
  • Prefers flat sandy seafloor with rocks [2, 1]
  • Burrows with snout and flaps wings to uncover mollusk, crustacean and small fish prey on sandy seafloor; other fish take advantage of this behavior to find “leftovers” in the pit that is formed [1]
  • Predators include sea lions, white sharks, broadnose sevengill sharks and humans through sportfishing or incidental catch in commercial fisheries [1, 13, 6]
  • Previously thought to disturb oyster fields, but recently discovered that ray eats crabs, a primary predator of oysters [1]

The Fishery

D. Haworth

Seasonal availability

  • Available year round, but catch is lowest in spring in southern California [13,4]

Managing authority

  • NOAA Fisheries and Pacific Fishery Management Council as incidental catch in the Federal Groundfish Fishery [13]
  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife, may be covered as an emerging fishery under CDFW Code and the Marine Life Management Act [15,8]

Gear type

  • Best bait are squid or mackerel, fresh or frozen [2,14,3]
  • Troll, longline, gillnet, hook and line, and trawl (with limited entry) [17,12]

Status of the fishery

  • Not specifically regulated, but restrictions on entry and gear (e.g. nearshore gillnets) provide protection [13]
  • Stocks considered stable and increasing; IUCN status “Least Concern” since 2006 [13]
  • Fishing as a pest of oyster beds virtually eliminated by 1994 [13]
  • Little abundance information; catch increased from 47% to 68% of fishing derby catch from the 1950s to 90s [13]

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • Most of the incidental catch of rays is from trawling, which is regulated through limited entry [12]

The Seafood

http://honest-food.net/bat-ray-recipe/

Edible portions

  • Wings (entire wing cut into filets) [11]

Description of meat

  • Tender but meaty; similar to skate [11]
  • Compared to white fish and scallops [10,5]

Culinary uses

  • Available whole, or skinned and filleted, fresh or frozen [10,17]
  • If preparing fresh-caught, remove slime by rubbing the wing down with coarse salt or a scrub brush in the sink, slice meat off cartilage, filet like fish, brine, and age filets in fridge for a few days [11]
  • Prepare as you would any other fish, but recommend sautéing, deep-frying or poaching [10, 11]

Nutritional information 

  • Nutrition Facts table given for skate (similar to rays) [18]

Toxicity report

  • Processes urea through the skin, therefore, when purchasing, avoid pieces that smell like ammonia and, when sport fishing, eliminate gut immediately after obtaining and put on ice [10, 11]

Seasonal availability

  • Year round [13]

References

[1] Monterey Bay Aquarium. 2017. Bat Ray. Web. https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/fishes/bat-ray. Accessed: 12 April 2017.

[2] Jones, K. 2004. Pier fishing in California: the complete coast and bay guide. 2nd ed. Roseville, CA: Publishers Design Group. CA,USA.

[3] Prehistoric Soul. 2014. Bat Ray Fishing in Southern California Bays. Web. http://prehistoricsoul.com/link-post-format-with-left-oriented-sidebar/. Accessed: 12 April 2017.

[4] California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Commercial Fishing, Web. https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/commercial. Accessed: 20 May 2017. 

[5] Dunaway, V. 2012. Cooking Stingray and Skates. Web. http://www.floridasportsman.com/2012/08/13/cooking-stingray-and-skates/. Accessed: 20 May 2017.

[6] Jones, K. 2011. The Mighty Mud Marlin. Web. http://kenjonesfishing.com/articles/the-mighty-mud-marlin/. Accessed: 20 May 2017.

[7] Jones, K. 2015. Bat Ray. Web. http://kenjonesfishing.com/2015/08/bat-ray/. Accessed: 20 May 2017.

[8] Marine Life Management Act. Web. https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/MLMA. Accessed: 20 May 2017.

[9] Myliobatis californica Bat Eagle Ray. Web. http://eol.org/pages/207925/details. Accessed: 31 April 2017.

[10] Oulton, R. 2007. Skate. Web. http://www.cooksinfo.com/skate. Accessed: 20 May 2017.

[11] Shaw, H. Loving the Unloved: Bat Rays. Web. http://honest-food.net/bat-ray-recipe/. Accessed: 31 April 2017.

[12] Trawl Regulations & Compliance Guidelines. Web. http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/groundfish_catch_shares/rules_regulations/trawl_regulations_compliance_guides.html. Accessed: 26 May 2017.

[13] van Hees, K. 2015. Myliobatis californicus. Web. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/39416/0. Accessed: 31 April 2017.

[14] Yeh, A. 2015. Shark and Ray Fishing. Web. http://www.scalzfishing.com/shark-and-ray-fishing/. Accessed: 12 April 2017.

[15] California Fish and Game Commission. 2005. Emerging Fisheries. Section 7090. California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Sacramento, Ca, USA.

[16] 2013. Bat Rays, Myliobatis californica. Web. http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=101. Accessed: 31 April 2017.

[17] Tuna Harbor Dockside Market. 2017. Web. http://thdocksidemarket.com/new/#species. Accessed: 20 May 2017.

[18] Bat Ray. Web. Nutritiondata.self.com. Accessed: 21 September 2017.