Rare Flapper Skate prepares to make his Macduff Aquarium debut

Popular Aberdeenshire visitor attraction, Macduff Marine Aquarium, has become home to a critically endangered flapper skate which will be showcased when the centre reopens at the end of April.

By Kevin Mcroberts
Friday, 23rd April 2021, 6:00 am
Cedric the Flapper Skate will be on display when the aquarium reopens on Monday, April 26.
Cedric the Flapper Skate will be on display when the aquarium reopens on Monday, April 26.

Cedric the young flapper skate (Dipturus intermedius) came to Macduff Marine Aquarium from Orkney at the end of 2020.

A damaged flapper skate egg case had been found during an Orkney Skate Trust research survey and it was discovered to have a developing embryo inside.

The egg could not be returned to the sea as it was unlikely to survive – so was carefully nurtured in a fish tank in a researcher’s garage and successfully hatched.

Cedric is likely to be one of the star attractions when the aquarium reopens.

With limited facilities to support a growing youngster, the opportunity was taken to move Cedric to Macduff Marine Aquarium to include him in the native collection and highlight this fascinating and critically endangered species.

Flapper skates are the largest skates in the world, growing nearly three metres long and two metres across the wings. They were once common across the North-east Atlantic but are now extinct in much of their historic range.

Due to intense fishing in 19th and 20th centuries, this species is now only found in the northern North Sea, off Scotland’s North-west coast and the Celtic Sea.

Flapper skates face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. They are rarer and more endangered than giant pandas, blue whales and mountain gorillas!

Researchers are trying to gather more information to aid the recovery of flapper skate populations. In 2009, it became illegal to land flapper skates commercially.

Both adults and their large egg cases remain vulnerable to becoming by-catch in the fishing industry. Flapper skates take around ten years to mature, and so population numbers in Scotland will be slow to recover, even now that some protection is in place.

Aquarium staff will be able to contribute to the wider understanding of the species by monitoring Cedric’s growth rate and other developmental changes. The aquarium will be working closely with scientists from Orkney Skate Trust and other organisations to share information about Cedric as he grows and to ultimately coordinate his release to the wild when that time comes.

Aquarium manager, Claire Matthews, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to showcase this rare and beautiful skate and raise awareness about the challenges that so many of our native shark, ray and skate species face.

"The timing of Cedric’s arrival with us coincides with a recent designation of the inner Sound of Skye as a Marine Protected Area for flapper skates and we very much look forward to helping further scientific knowledge of them.

"Cedric will be comfortably accommodated in our display tanks as he grows bigger and will eventually be released to the sea as a mature male, to support the important Orkney population. We’re sure he’ll make a big splash as an ambassador for his species while we have him.”

The aquarium will be reopening to the public on Monday, April 26, with social distancing measures in place. Cedric will be on display in the Shallow Seas zone.

Visitors to the aquarium are asked to book in advance to avoid disappointment. To book, go to: