Researching Flapper Skates in Orkney’s Seas

News From Orkney Islands Council

The North Isles Landscape Partnership Scheme (NILPS) is to work with the Orkney Skate Trust on an exciting and innovative project to learn more about the critically endangered Flapper Skate and general marine life in the North Isles.

flapper skate

The Flapper Skate is the largest known skate in the world and Orkney’s network of over 70 islands and skerries provide the perfect refuge – where the marine environment provides optimum conditions for their survival.

The project will involve placing cameras, baited with food, on the sea floor for short periods in selected locations around the islands.  Marine animals will then be attracted to the bait with the resulting footage providing a fascinating and valuable insight into marine life in the area.

The first test cameras have already provided some exciting footage of the critically endangered Flapper Skate as well as a school of squid, lots of different types of fish of all sizes, crabs, prawns and squat lobsters.

Daniel Wise is from the Orkney Skate Trust, which has designed the project. He said:

“As a scallop diver I’m lucky enough to have seen many underwater areas around the North Isles and this project will allow everyone to be able to see what marine life there is around our islands.

“Our cameras are being used to learn more about Flapper Skate – essentially bringing the marine life to you through the use of bait. It’s simple but highly effective and I’m looking forward to showing the results.”

In addition to underwater filming, the  Orkney Skate Trust will also be giving presentations about their work in the North Isles and organising events for people to collect and record egg cases washed up on isles beaches.

Established by Daniel Wise in 2010, the Orkney Skate Trust (OST) is 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 egg cases, while at the same time contributing scientific data to other conservation NGOs and government agencies.

The North Isles Landscape Partnership Scheme (NILPS) is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Environment Scotland, OIC, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme and supports projects in Orkney’s North Isles that promote the culture, heritage and landscape of the area.

The programme will invest £4.5 million in the North Isles and the project will run until 2023.

The NILPS project team can be contacted on (01856) 879076 by email or through the North Isles Landscape Partnership Scheme website.

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