Dogfish, Lesser Spotted

Scyliorhinus canicula

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat, eastern English Channel, West of Scotland, Irish Sea and southern Celtic Seas
Stock detail — IV, IIIa, VIId, VI, VII a-c, e-j
Picture of Dogfish, Lesser Spotted

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

Catshark are one of the few shark species whose numbers appear to be stable at present and possibly increasing. However, due to landings not being species specific, it is difficult to know what current catch levels are which can make it difficult for scientists to evaluate the state of the stock.


Lesser spotted dogfish or catshark belongs to one of the largest families of sharks, the dogfishes or Scyliorhinidae. Most commonly encountered around the coasts of northern Europe it is a bottom dwelling shark most usually found over sand, mud, algae, and rocky bottoms in coastal waters down to depths of 400 m. Like many elasmobranchs, the catshark often aggregates by size and sex. In the North East Atlantic females reach first maturity at around 52 cm,with 50% of individuals mature by 57 cm (8 years). 100% of individuals mature at 69 cm. Males reach first maturity at around 49 cm, with 50% of individuals mature by 53.5 cm (6 to 7 years) and 100% of individuals mature at 62 cm. Females lay their eggs during spring and early summer. The shark embryos are enclosed in cases (called 'mermaids' purses) whilst they develop and mature, a period of 5-11 months depending on sea temperature. Catsharks can grow up to 1 metre in length, but rarely seen larger than 80 cm. Maximum age is reported as 12 years. They are also marketed as dogfish.

Stock information

Stock Area

North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat, eastern English Channel, West of Scotland, Irish Sea and southern Celtic Seas

Stock information

Catshark (dogfish or lesser spotted dogfish) is common and widespread all around the coasts of Britain and Ireland. It reproduces relatively quickly compared to other sharks. In the absence of reference points, the stock status and fishing mortality of catshark in these areas cannot be evaluated, but using landings and catch data, ICES scientists believe it is increasing and that the area occupied by this species is also increasing. ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches in 2016 could be increased by no more than 18%-20% compared to the average of 2012-2014, with the catch value advised for 2016 also applicable to 2017. ICES is not able to quantify the resulting catches or landings as discards are high and landings are not generally reported at the species level.


There is no specific management plan for demersal elasmobranchs. There is currently no Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for lesser-spotted dogfish and therefore no obligation to report it at the species level. They are often included in generic categories and landed as "dog fish and hounds". Because landings data for this species is not fully documented it is not considered reliable for stock assessment purposes. Fishery-independent surveys provide the longest time-series of species-specific information.

Capture Information

Catshark are taken as bycatch in mixed demersal fisheries, and are often reported and landed in the generic category, "dogfish and hounds", rather than by species. Given that landings data are not fully documented, it is not possible to state what the current catch is. This can make it difficult for scientists to evaluate the state of the stock. They are most often caught as bycatch in bottom trawl, gillnet, trammel net, and longline fisheries. Generally the species is of low commercial value and discard rates are high (up to 98%!) but equally, when caught and handled responsibly, their discard survival rates are also high. If it is not discarded, it is often used for bait in pot fisheries to catch whelk (Buccinum undatum) and crustaceans. Some Inshore Fishery Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) have implemented management measures e.g. minimum mesh sizes in fixed nets.
There is a potential for damage to the seabed from trawling. Trawling is also associated with discarding of unwanted fish, i.e. undersized and/or non-quota and/or over-quota species but their capture rates can be reduced for example by inserting a square-mesh panel into the net. To learn more see our Fishing methods guide.


Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler
Bass, seabass (Farmed)
Bream, Gilthead (Farmed)
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Japanese amberjack, Yellowtail or Seriola
Pollack or Lythe
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Pouting or Bib
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES Advice 2015, Book 5;
Shark Trust 2010. An illustrated Compendium of Sharks, Skates, Rays and Chimaera. Chapter 1: The British Isles and Northeast Atlantic. Part 2: Sharks