Nursehound, Bull Huss, Greater Spotted Dogfish

Scyliorhinus stellaris

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
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 stock status of nursehound is unknown, but believed to be stable and recently decreased. There is a lack of data for the stocks. There is no specific management plan for demersal elasmobranchs. Further management is required.

Demersal otter trawling is associated with discarding of unwanted fish and sometimes catch endangered species but bycatch can be improved by modifying the fishing gear. In general consumers should avoid eating Nursehound as they are vulnerable to overexploitation, due to their specific biological characteristics (slow-growing, late to mature and generally producing few young).


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 (2008) by IUCN.

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 there are differences amongst species in their vulnerabilities to exploitation and a restrictive quota may lead to increased discarding. Instead seasonal and/or area closures, effort restrictions and measures to protect spawning grounds are recommended.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.75 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.

Common bycatch in bottom trawls include mixed crabs, urchins, Lesser-Spotted Dogfish, Nursehound, Dragonet, Starry Ray, Smelt and can occasionally catch endangered species. Invertebrates such as crabs and urchins are vulnerable to damage.

Discard rates are high because they are a low value species; their survival rates are unknown but depend on the fishing and handling method

Nursehound are normally found in rocky, inshore areas where commercial fishing intensity is low. Generally, 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 accustomed the seabed is to natural disturbance. Fishing occurs over a mixture of seafloor types. IFCAs generally ensure bottom trawling occurs in areas where there will be minimal damage to habitats such as mobile sands, however, this species can be caught in rocky inshore habitats.


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
Cod, Pacific Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
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.