Nursehound, Bull Huss, Greater Spotted Dogfish

Scyliorhinus stellaris

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Longline
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Celtic Sea and English Channel
Stock detail — 6 and 7
Picture of Nursehound, Bull Huss, Greater Spotted Dogfish

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

The nursehound is Europe’s largest catshark, growing to about 1.3 metres. They are particularly abundant in this stock area. It is unknown if their populations are at healthy levels and there is a lack of monitoring of the species, which prevents scientists from making accurate stock assessments. There is no specific management plan for demersal elasmobranchs. Further management is required. Longlines are a relatively selective gear but there is still possible bycatch of shark and other non-target species, including seabirds.


Nursehounds, also called bull huss or greater spotted dogfish, belong to a group of dogfish known as the family Scyliorhinidae. Unlike spurdogs, which give birth to live young, all Scyliorhinid dogfish (which includes the nursehound) lay eggs enclosed in smooth, rounded cases, known as mermaids purses. They may grow to around 160 cm in length; age and size at maturity and maximum age is unknown. They are vulnerable to over-exploitation, due to their specific biological characteristics (slow-growing, late to mature and generally producing few young). Egg laying appears to occur during spring and summer in shallow water.

Stock information

Criterion score: 1 info

Stock Area

Celtic Sea and English Channel

Stock information

The stock status of Nursehound (Greater-Spotted Dogfish) is generally unknown due to a lack of data. Nursehound populations were steadily increasing until 2011 but have been generally decreasing since. It is difficult to collect data on Greater-Spotted Dogfish because they can be locally abundant and are found in inshore, rocky habitats where it is difficult to survey. Their catches are often reported under a mixed ‘sharks’ category, rather than by species, which makes it difficult for scientists to evaluate their stock status.

Scientists recommend that Nursehound catches are reduced by 36% for the years 2018 and 2019, but landings are currently unknown. Nursehound discard rates are unknown but they considered as a hardy shark and can be discarded alive provided they are fished and handled correctly.

Nursehound are assessed as Near Threatened (2006) by IUCN.

Since their stock size index has been decreasing and fishing mortality is completely unknown, there is concern for both biomass and fishing mortality. Their resilience is deemed as ‘low’.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

There is no specific management plan for demersal elasmobranchs, though Nursehounds are found in rocky grounds where fishing pressure is reduced. More management is required for the fishery. However, quotas alone may not adequately protect these species as a restrictive quota may lead to increased discarding. Instead seasonal and/or area closures, effort restrictions and measures to protect spawning grounds are recommended.

There are several problems with both fishery-independent and fishery-dependent data that preclude accurate assessments for the species in this area. For example, fishery-dependent data are limited because nursehounds are often misidentified as S. canicula in landings data, which is particularly important for the nursehound because they are more susceptible to overfishing. The accuracy of fishery-independent data is limited because most surveys do not sample over their preferred habitat (rocky substrates) and therefore, they are rarely observed in surveys.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

Nursehounds and their family (Scyliorhinids) are relatively less susceptible to overfishing, compared to other sharks. They are most frequently caught as a bycatch species in otter trawls, followed by beam trawls, nets, longline and rod and line. Longlines are a relatively selective gear but there is still possible bycatch of shark and other non-target species, including seabirds.

S. stellaris is found in inshore waters, generally in shallow water to depths, to depths of around 125 m, on rough or rocky bottoms, including areas with algal cover (e.g. kelp forests).


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
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, European
Monkfish, Anglerfish
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES 2017e. Greater spotted dogfish (Scyliorhinus stellaris) in subareas 6 and 7 (Celtic Sea and English Channel). Published 6 October 2017. syt.27.67 DOI: 10.17895/ Available at:

Ellis, J., Serena, F., Mancusi, C., Haka, F., Morey, G., Guallart, J. & Schembri, T. 2009. Scyliorhinus stellaris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009: e.T161484A5434281.

Shark Trust; 2010. An Illustrated Compendium of Sharks, Skates, Rays and Chimaera. Nursehound. Available at:

ICES. 2017a. Report of the Workshop to compile and refine catch and landings of elasmobranchs (WKSHARK3), 20-24 February 2017, Nantes, France . ICES CM 2017/ ACOM:38. 119 pp.

ICES. 2017. Report of the Working Group on Elasmobranchs (2017), 31 May-7 June 2017, Lisbon, Portugal. ICES CM 2017/ACOM:16. 1018 pp.