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 — West of Scotland, southern Celtic Sea, and the English Channel
Stock detail — VI and VII
Picture of Nursehound, Bull Huss, Greater Spotted Dogfish

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

The main fisheries for nursehound around the UK occur in the Celtic Sea region, where they live in small localised populations. The stocks in this region are believed to be stable, however there is a lack of data preventing scientists from making more accurate assessments. In general consumers should avoid eating nursehound (and all shark species) as they are vulnerable to overexploitation, due to their specific biological characteristics (slow-growing, late to mature and generally producing few young). Nursehound is listed as Near Threatened by IUCN, the World Conservation Union.


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

Stock Area

West of Scotland, southern Celtic Sea, and the English Channel

Stock information

The stock status of nursehound (greater-spotted dogfish) is generally unknown because of the lack of species specific landing data and its low, irregular appearances in scientific surveys. Scientists suggest the species would benefit from a reduction in overall demersal fishing effort, as they are caught as bycatch in all these fisheries and discarding is thought to be high. There is no Total Allowable Catch for demersal elasmobranchs, such as nursehound. In the Celtic Sea, there are localised populations of nursehound (greater-spotted dogfish) off Anglesey and the Lleyn Peninsula (VIIa). The stock status of nursehound here can not be evaluated in the absence of defined reference points, but using landings and catch data, scientists believe the population is increasing in distinct areas off north Wales. However, this species has a restricted distribution and could be vulnerable to local depletions. The stock in the area (VI and VII) has overall increased since 1993. ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches in 2016 should be decreased by 6% compared to the average of 2012 to 2014, and the catch value for 2016 should be continued to 2017. Scientists are not able to quantify the resulting catches or landings. The current catch level is uncertain and genus specific landing information, which is currently lacking, is needed. Assessed as Near Threatened (2008) by IUCN, the World Conservation Union.


There is no specific management plan for demersal elasmobranchs. There is no management plan for the stock though since the species is found in rocky grounds were fishing pressure is reduced, they may be subject to spatial management by default. TACs alone may not adequately protect these species as there are differences amongst species in their vulnerabilities to exploitation and a restrictive TAC may lead to discarding. Instead seasonal and/or area closures, effort restrictions and measures to protect spawning grounds for example are recommended.

Capture Information

The family Scyliorhinids are generally productive species in comparison to other demersal elasmobranchs and are typically discarded or of low value as a bycatch. Nursehound is generally taken as bycatch in longline and trawl fisheries and is often reported and landed under a mixed 'sharks' category, rather than by species, which makes it difficult for scientists to evaluate the state of the stock. Longlining is a less fuel intensive and more selective method of fishing than trawling, but still has bycatch issues. This species is locally important for recreational fisheries and it is generally released alive.


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