Animals -> Fish -> Saltwater Fish -> Skates and Rays

Skates and Rays

Archeological remains identifying human use found skates from Oregon to Alaska [10].Skates of unspecified species was available to the Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth) of Vancouver Island [1, 2], the Quileute of the west coast [3], the Micmac (Mi'kmaq) of Richibucto [4], the Coast Salish [5, 6], the Gulf of Georgia Salish [7], the Wampanoag of Massachusetts [8] and the Indigenous People of Puget Sound [9]. Consumed skates are likely to have included the big skate in the Pacific and barndoor skates in the Atlantic.

The Micmac caught skates using spears in shallow water, nets, or hook and lines [4]. The Coast Salish cut the underside of the fish, removed the entrails and cooked the fish whole (with bones). Larger skates were wrapped in seaweed and cooked in an imu (pit oven) with a variety of shellfish; smaller fish were barbecued on a rack [6].

The Coast Salish were reported to have eaten rays [6]. Although the species of ray was not specified, it may have included pelagic stingrays. Small rays were barbecued while the larger ones were baked; both were prepared whole after being gutted, but not deboned as they are a very flat fish. They were barbecued until flaky on large barbecue racks made from wood poles and sticks, and were baked in an imu pit after being wrapped in a layer of clean seaweed. Stones were added to the pit and a fire was started using cedar tinder. When the fire was burning well, alder was added and the resulting coals were laid on rocks to heat them. When the fire had completely turned to coals, the coals and some of the rocks were set aside and the wrapped fish was placed on the remaining rocks. The coals, hot rocks, and gravel were heaped on top and the ray was baked for around one hour [6].



1.         Arima EY: The West Coast People: The Nootka of Vancouver Island and Cape Flattery, vol. Special Publication No. 6. Victoria, B.C.: British Columbia Provincial Musem; 1983.

2.         Arima E, Dewhirst J: Nootkans of Vancouver Island. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7: Northwest Coast. edn. Edited by Suttles W. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1990: 391-397.

3.         Powell JV: Quileute. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7: Northwest Coast. edn. Edited by Suttles W. Washington: Smithsonian Institution; 1990: 431-432.

4.         Speck FG, Dexter RW: Utilization of animals and plants by the Micmac Indians of New Brunswick. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 1951, 41(8):250-259.

5.         Barnett HG: Food; Occupations. In: The Coast Salish of British Columbia. Volume 1st edition, edn. Eugene: University of Oregon; 1955: 59-107.

6.         Batdorf C: Northwest Native Harvest. Surrey, B.C: Hancock House Publishers Ltd.; 1990.

7.         Barrett HG: Gulf of Georgia Salish: University of California; 1939.

8.         Speck FG, Dexter RW: Utilization of marine life by the Wampanoag Indians of Massachusetts. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 1948, 38(8):257-265.

9.         Eells M: The Indians of Puget Sound: The Notebooks of Myron Eells. Seattle: University of Washington Press; 1985.

10.       McKechnie I, Moss ML: Meta-analysis in zooarchaeology expands perspectives on Indigenous fisheries of the Northwest Coast of North America Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 2016, 8:470-85.

Skates and rays are saltwater fish that are related to sharks. In North America, skates include the big skate (Raja binoculata), found along the Pacific coast [1], and the barndoor skate (Dipturus laevis), found along the Atlantic coast [2], while rays include the pelagic stingray (Pteroplatytrygon violacea), occurring along both coast [3]. Skates and rays have a unique large, flat body with a smooth skin, wing-like pectoral fins, and a long slender tail, which is longer and more whip-like in rays. They are bottom-dwellers and feed on bivalves, crustaceans, squids, and fish [4]. 


1.         "Raja binoculata Girard, 1855." []

2.         "Dipturus laevis Mitchill, 1818." []

3.         "Pteroplatytrygon violacea" []

4.         Migdalski EC, Fichter GS: The fresh and salt water fishes of the world. New York, NY, USA: Knopf; 1976.


Images provided below, unless otherwise stated, were obtained from: Encyclopedia of Life. Available from
Big skate
Image was obtained from: FishBase. Available from
© Catie Bursch / Kachemak Bay Research Reserve
This map is based on occurrence records available through the GBIF network
Barndoor skate
© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes
Supplier: National Museum of Natural History Collections
This map is based on occurrence records available through the GBIF network
Pelagic stingray
Supplier: FishBase
This map is based on occurrence records available through the GBIF network