Sunday, August 7, 2016

Low Tide Of High And Dry Boys

Beached Big Skate on Spanish Banks - photo by Junie Quiroga
Walking along Spanish Banks at low tide the other day I came across a strange sight, a Big Skate that had somehow ended up high and dry on the beach and died. At first I thought it was some kind of ray until I did a little research and found out what differentiates one from the other, in particular the two dorsal fins in the tail. The bigger mystery was how the hapless creature had ended up there in the first place.

The Big Skate is found along the Pacific coastline from Alaska to California and typically lives in water 80 - 400 feet in depth. It has some commercial importance in the California fishery, mostly as bottom trawler bycatch, where the pectoral fins are sold as skate wings but, because of its slow reproductive rate, it is now rated as a near threatened species. If they are caught by a recreational fisherman they are typically released or discarded and that's probably what happened to this skate and another one I found not to far away as well.

Nelson and beached Big Skate on Spanish Banks - photo by Junie Quiroga

Beached fishing boat on Spanish Banks - photo by Junie Quiroga
Since they spend most of their time buried in the sand it's not inconceivable the two Big Skates were caught out by a rapidly ebbing tide, similar to what happened to this embarrassed fisherman a little further along the same beach on the same day. How a boat could end up on the wrong side of gigantic low tide marker is no doubt part of the "fish that got away" story he will be sharing with friends and family but it's a pity the two skates weren't aware of the markers themselves.

Spanish Banks low tide marker - photo by Junie Quiroga
Getting caught out by low tides isn't something likely to happen to my seal swimming companions though. At worst it would mean a little extra suntanning time though they prefer to be on rocks as opposed to lying on the sand. Whether it's the heat or too many beers, the summer season can always be counted on to provide them with an amusing story to share with their friends and family; in this case the low tide of high and dry boys.

Curious harbour seal - photo by Junie Quiroga

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