Lesser spotted dogfish

Scyliorhinus caniculata

Lesser spotted dogfish

Image | Copywrite Marc Dando

Description

Murgey or Lesser spotted dogfish, or small spotted catsharks are small sharks that live on and near the seabed. They have beautiful spotted skins that are covered in tough sandpaper like skin teeth. It is very difficult to remove this skin and as a result dogfish is rarely eaten in Cornwall and many fishermen use it as bait. It is however edible and sometimes marketed as ‘sweet William’.


Sustainability Overview

Lesser spotted dogfish numbers appear to be stable and increasing in some areas possibly due to their toughness and the lack of demand and low price offered for them. Consumers should avoid eating sharks as generally they are vulnerable to over fishing due to the fact that they are slow growing, late to mature and produce few young each year.

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When is best to eat?

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Gill Netting

Cornish vessels landing to Cornish Ports

Gill nets are lightweight nets made of nylon (monofilament) fishing line that are anchored to the seabed and are used to catch fish by entangling the gills.

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Demersal Trawl

Cornish vessels landing to Cornish Ports

Demersal trawls are large nets that are pulled through the water with the bottom edge of the net touching the seabed. At each edge the net is pulled open by metal ‘trawl doors’. Sometimes referred to as Otter trawling.

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Beam Trawling

Cornish vessels landing to Cornish Ports

Beam trawls are nets attached to a steel beam that holds the net open. The belly of the net is made of chains and the upper surface of the net is mesh. Beam trawlers pull two nets along the seabed simultaneously.

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How we rate fish

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Cornwall Good Seafood Guide rates fish on sustainability using a scale of 1 to 5.

1, 2 and 3 are recommended, Fish to avoid are rated 5.

We use the system devised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) so our scores are comparable with the scores produced by MCS for the UK and fisheries from all around the world. For more information on scoring click here.

Sustainability Overview

Lesser spotted dogfish numbers appear to be stable and increasing in some areas possibly due to their toughness and the lack of demand and low price offered for them. Consumers should avoid eating sharks as generally they are vulnerable to over fishing due to the fact that they are slow growing, late to mature and produce few young each year.

Lesser spotted dogfish

Biology

Lesser spotted dogfish (also known in Cornwall as Murgey)are small sharks that live on the seabed and grow up to 1m in length. They are harmless to humans although they have been known to cut anglers who handle them using their sharp, sandpaper like skin. They are from depths of a few meters down to 400m. they are scavenging animals that opportunistically feed on a wide range of seabed invertebrates.  They have a high vulnerability to fishing (62/100 ref Cheung et all 2005) as they have a slow growth rate and low reproductive rate. Dogfish egg cases (mermaids purses) are regularly seen on the strandline around Cornwall and finds of shark and ray eggs should be reported to www.sharktrust.org/en/great_eggcase_hunt.

Stock Info

This species is common and widespread around the UK coast but scientific analysis of its population has not been carried out in detail so the exact status of the stock is unknown, However using landings and catch data ICES scientist believe the stocks are increasing and that its range is also increasing. This species is currently not highly valued and fishing effort is staying the same or declining as a result. Ices advise that the catches in 2015 could be increased by a maximum of 20%. ICUN redlist status least concern.  Scores 3.5 on seafish Ecological risk Assessment for effects of south west fisheries – significant risk.

Management

There are few management measures relevant to this species. There is no minimum landing size or quota for lesser spotted dogfish. Currently there is little economic value in this species so landings are limited and management is currently appropriate. This will need to me monitored in future as if value increased there is little preventing this species being over fished.

Capture Info

Lesser spotted dogfish are taken as by-catch in trawl and net fisheries and are often found in crab pots too. They have a high survival rate when caught in pots and other fishing gears. 

References

MMO landings data 
 
Ref  -Cheung, W.W.L., T.J. Pitcher and D. Pauly, 2005. A fuzzy logic expert system to estimate intrinsic extinction vulnerabilities of marine fishes to fishing. Biol. Conserv. 124:97-111 www.fishbase.org
 
ICES advice  2014 Lesser-spotted dogfish (Scyliorhinus canicula) in Subarea VI and Divisions VIIa–c, e–j (Celtic Seas and west of Scotland)
 
SR671 Ecological Risk Assessment South West Fisheries  2014 Seafish Industry Authority
wwwsharktrust.org
 

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