Dogfish, Lesser Spotted
Capture method — Beam 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 — 3a, 4, 7d
Updated: December 2019.
This stock is data limited. There is no concern for the biomass and no concern for fishing pressure, but lesser spotted dogfish has a low resilience to fishing pressure. There are currently no major target fisheries for dogfishes but they are taken as a bycatch in mixed fisheries by all gear types. ICES advises that landings should be no more than 2380 tonnes in each of the years 2020 and 2021. Lesser spotted dogfish are not subject to any management measures and there is no quota set. Their high productivity, combined with their low commercial importance, makes them a low priority for proactive management. Bottom trawling has the potential to cause significant impact to habitat, such as removing or destroying physical features and reducing biota and habitat complexity.
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) and all are expected to be mature by 69 cm. Males reach first maturity at around 49 cm, with 50% of individuals mature by 53.5 cm (6 to 7 years) and all mature 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.
Criterion score: 0.5 info
This stock is data limited. There is no concern for the biomass and no concern for fishing pressure but lesser spotted dogfish has a low resilience to fishing pressure. There are no reference points to give an indicator of stock size and fishing pressure compared maximum sustainable yield (MSY). However, the stock size indicator increased continuously to a record high in 2013 and has since declined but remains higher than the long term average and there appears to have been a small increase from 2017 to 2018. There are currently no major target fisheries for dogfishes but they are taken as a bycatch in mixed fisheries.
ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, landings should be no more than 2,380 tonnes in each of the years 2020 and 2021. A precautionary buffer was applied when calculating this advice because stock size has declined in recent years. This results in a decrease in the landings advice compared to 2018 and 2019 (3,380 tonnes). Since peaking at 2,969 tonnes in 2016, landings have been declining, with 2017-2018 landings averaging around 2,370 tonnes - 12% lower than the five preceding years.
Criterion score: 0.75 info
ICES is not aware of any agreed management plan for lesser spotted dogfish in this area. They are not subject to any management measures and there is no quota available. Their high productivity, combined with their low commercial importance, makes them a low priority for proactive management. There are no official minimum landing sizes.
In the European Union (EU), EU fishing vessels can fish up to 12 nautical miles of any Member State coast, and closer by agreement. There is overarching fisheries legislation for all Member States, but implementation varies between fisheries, Member States and sea basins.
The EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the primary overarching policy. Its key environmental objectives are to restore and maintain harvested species at healthy levels (above BMSY), and apply the precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management. To achieve the MSY objective, the MSY exploitation rate is supposed to be achieved by 2020, but this seems unlikely to happen.
The CFP also introduced a Landing Obligation (LO) which bans the discarding at sea of species which are subject to catch limits. Some exemptions apply to species with high post-capture survival, and where avoiding unwanted catches is very difficult. These exemptions are outlined in regional discard plans. Despite quota ‘uplift’ being granted to fleets under the LO, available evidence suggests there has been widespread non-compliance with the policy, and illegal and unreported discarding is likely occurring.
Multi-Annual Plans (MAPs) are a tool for implementing the CFP regionally, with one in place or being developed for each sea basin. They specify fishing mortality targets and ranges for the main targeted species, as well as lower biomass reference points. If populations drop below these points it should trigger a management response. The MAPs also empower Member States to jointly apply measures such as closures, gear or capacity limits, and bycatch limits. There is concern however that the MAPs do not provide adequate safeguards to maintain all stocks at healthy levels. This stock is not covered by the North Sea MAP.
The EU Technical Measures regulation addresses how, where and when fishing can take place in order to limit unwanted catches and ecosystem impacts. There are common measures that apply to all EU sea basins, and regional measures that vary between sea basins. Measures include Minimum Conservation Reference Sizes (MCRS, previously Minimum Landing Sizes, MLS), gear specifications, mesh sizes, closed areas, and bycatch limits.
The Control Regulation, which is being revised in 2019, addresses application of and compliance with the above, e.g. keeping catches within limits, recording and sharing data, and satellite tracking of vessels over 12 metres (VMS).
Criterion score: 0.75 info
Lesser-spotted dogfish is caught throughout the Celtic Seas and North Sea ecoregions and is taken by all gear types. 54% is taken by bottom trawl, 20% is taken by beam trawl and 26% is taken by other gear types. Lesser-spotted dogfish are the most commonly caught and discarded of all the shark species. They are retained in some fisheries with proportions discarded ranging 58% - 100% depending on gear type and area. Net fisheries were the most selective gear, with few records of lesser-spotted dogfish less than 40 cm in length. ICES cannot quantify the amount the discarding taking place. Survival rates can also vary and in the beam trawl fisheries in this area, there is estimated to be a > 90% discard survival rate. The discard pattern on individual fishing trips can be influenced by factors such as quota availability, quantities of other (more profitable) fish. In addition, fish that are damaged may be rejected for commercial reasons.
There is a lack of information available on other bycatch species. In the North Sea, common bycatch in bottom trawls include mixed crabs, urchins, lesser spotted dogfish, nursehound, dragonet, starry ray, smelt. Endangered, Threatened and Protected (ETP) species include Angel shark and Common skate (both critically endangered (IUCN)), which were depleted through fishing in this area. Invertebrates such as crabs and urchins are vulnerable to damage.
Bottom trawling has the potential to cause significant impact to habitat, such as removing or destroying physical features and reducing biota and habitat complexity. Therefore, the recovery time of the seabed after trawling varies greatly, and depends on the fishing gear, the substrate, intensity of the trawl and how accustomed the seabed is to natural disturbance.
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
Cod, Pacific Cod
Monkfish, Anglerfish, White
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Spurdog, Spiny Dogfish, Dogfish, Rock Salmon or Flake
ReferencesICES. 2019. Lesser spotted dogfish (Scyliorhinus canicula) in Subarea 4 and divisions 3.a and 7.d (North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat, eastern English Channel). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, syc.27.3a47d. Available at https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.4846. [Accessed on 16.12.2019].
ICES. 2019. Working Group on Elasmobranch Fishes (WGEF). ICES Scientific Reports. 1:25. Available at http://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.5594. [Accessed on 16.12.2019].
McCully Phillips, S. R., Scott, F. and Ellis, J. R. 2015. Having confidence in Productivity Susceptibility Analyses: A method for underpinning scientific advice on skate stocks? Fisheries Research, 171: 87-100. Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fishres.2015.01.005. [Accessed on 16.12.2019].
Revill, A. S., Dulvy, N. K., and Holst, R. 2005. The survival of discarded lesser-spotted dogfish (Scyliorhinus canicula) in the Western English Channel beam trawl fishery. Fisheries Research, 71: 121-124. Available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fishres.2004.07.006. [Accessed on 16.12.2019].
Silva, J. F. and Ellis, J. R. 2019. Bycatch and discarding patterns of dogfish and sharks taken in English and Welsh commercial fisheries. Journal of Fish Biology. 94 (6). Available at https://doi.org/10.1111/jfb.13899 [Accessed on 16.12.2019].
Sguotti, C., Lynam, C.P., Garcia-Carreras, B., Ellis, J.R. and Engelhard, G.H., 2016. Distribution of skates and sharks in the North Sea: 112 years of change. Global change biology, 22(8), pp.2729-2743. Available at https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.13316 [Accessed on 16.12.2019].