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Keywords:

  • benthic;
  • discards;
  • ontogenetic;
  • trophic

The diet of smooth skate Dipturus innominatus was determined from examination of stomach contents of 321 specimens of 29·3–152·0 cm pelvic length, sampled from research and commercial trawlers at depths of 231–789 m on Chatham Rise, New Zealand. The diet was dominated by the benthic decapods Metanephrops challengeri and Munida gracilis, the natant decapod Campylonotus rathbunae and fishes from 17 families, of which hoki Macruronus novaezelandiae, sea perch Helicolenus barathri, various Macrouridae and a variety of discarded fishes were the most important. Multivariate analyses indicated the best predictors of diet variability were D. innominatus length and a spatial model. The diet of small D. innominatus was predominantly small crustaceans, with larger crustaceans, fishes and then scavenged discarded fishes increasing in importance as D. innominatus got larger. Scavenged discards were obvious as fish heads or tails only, or skeletal remains after filleting, often from pelagic species. Demersal fish prey were most frequent on the south and west Chatham Rise, in areas where commercial fishing was most active. Dipturus innominatus are highly vulnerable to overfishing, but discarding practices by commercial fishing vessels may provide a positive feedback to populations through improved scavenging opportunities.