"The deaths of two Maugean skates in the captive breeding program is incredibly sad news, and our heart goes out to the incredibly hard working team who are working around the clock on the program. This just goes to show how complex and delicate an operation captive breeding of an endangered species is.
It’s not unusual for a certain number of fatalities in any captive breeding program. But what this does shows us that the Maugean skate really are on a knife edge right now, and a breeding program cannot be expected to be a panacea for the skate.
The breeding program is too little too late from the Tasmanian government. They were warned that this exact scenario would happen for over a decade.
And this is why we really need to be focusing on the root cause for the decline of the skate, which as outlined in the conservation advice from the Federal Threatened Species Committee is a reduction in oxygen levels in Macquarie Harbour caused by salmon farming.
Captive breeding programs are never intended to replace habitat and ecosystem preservation, nor should it be carried out in lieu of comprehensive attempts to sustain or restore populations in their natural environments.
There needs to be both. We need to be prioritising rehabilitating the Maugean skate's habitat by halting salmon farming, and allowing oxygen levels to recover. This will give the remaining skate in both the wild and in the captive breeding program, a fighting chance of survival. A captive breeding program will only be successful if the environment into which they will be returned is healthy."
- Rebecca Howarth, Marine Campaigner