Melbourne Skate, Spiniraja whitleyi Click to enlarge image
Melbourne Skate, Spiniraja whitleyi. Image: marciariederer
© CC BY-NC 4.0

Fast Facts

  • IUCN Conservation Status
  • Classification
  • Size Range
    The species grows to 1.7m in length.


The Melbourne Skate, Spiniraja whitleyi, is the biggest skate species found in Australia and is sometimes caught by anglers and commercial fishers in the southern regions of the country. It can weigh up to approximately 50kg, grow to 200cm and are most abundant in shallow water near the shore.

What do Melbourne Skates look like?


The Melbourne Skate is characterised by a quadrangular, grey to greyish-brown disc with irregular whitish flecks and a whitish underside. Juveniles have large dark blotches on each side of the disc. 1-5 thorns are present along the midline behind the eyes and in rows along the short tail.

Melbourne Skate, Spiniraja whitleyi
Melbourne Skate, Spiniraja whitleyi. Image: mbp349
© CC BY-NC 4.0

Where do Melbourne Skates live?


This species is demersal along the continental shelf and upper slope, occupying hard bottoms habitat, mostly close inshore but has been recorded to depths ranging from 1 to 345 meters.


Endemic to southern Australia, the Melbourne Skate is widely distributed from Sydney, New South Wales, to Albany, Western Australia and around Tasmania. The Melbourne Skate is rare on the margins of its range but common elsewhere.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Source: Atlas of Living Australia.

What is the diet and reproductive behaviour of Melbourne Skates?

Feeding and diet

The Melbourne Skate primarily feeds on bony fishes, cephalopods (especially octopus) and crabs.

Life cycle

The Melbourne Skate is oviparous (egg laying), with females producing rectangular egg cases with horn-like extensions on the corners, measuring about 22 x 14 cm. Males mature at approximately 8 years and 127 cm total length, with females reaching maturity at around 10-11 years and 1460 cm TL. The species has a slow reproductive rate, with an estimated maximum of 16 years.

Conservation status

Primary threats

The Melbourne Skate is assessed as Vulnerable (IUCN) (Kyne et al. 2021) and Recovering (SAFS). The Melbourne Skate has undergone significant historic population declines in the Commonwealth Southern and Eastern Scalefish Fishery (SESSF), but its population has since been estimated to be increasing (Sherman et al. 2021). Fishing pressure has declined significantly and the Melbourne Skate is now assessed as at low risk in all sectors of the SESSF in which its caught. The species vulnerability to fishing and climate change was also assessed as low (Walker et al. 2021).


  • Kyne, P.M., Heupel, M.R., White, W.T. and Simpfendorfer, C.A. 2021. The Action Plan for Australian Sharks and Rays 2021. National Environmental Science Program, Marine Biodiversity Hub, Hobart.
  • Last, P., White, W., Carvalho, M.R. de, Séret, B., Stehmann, M. and Naylor, G.J.P. 2016. Rays of the World. CSIRO Publishing, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.
  • Sherman, C.S., Derrick, D., Kyne, P.M. & Treloar, M.A. 2021. Spiniraja whitleyi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T161496A68643826.
  • Walker, T.I., Day, R.W., Awruch, C.A., Bell, J.D., Braccini, J.M., Dapp, D.R., Finotto, L., Frick, L.H., Garcés-García, K.C., Guida, L., Huveneers, C., Martins, C.L., Rochowski, B.E.A., Tovar-Ávila, J., Trinnie, F.I. and Reina, R.D. 2021. Ecological vulnerability of the chondrichthyan fauna of southern Australia to the stressors of climate change, fishing and other anthropogenic hazards. Fish and Fisheries 22(5),1105-1135.