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Bull Huss, Nursehound

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Bull Huss


The largest species of cat shark in UK waters reaching 160cm in length. The nursehound or bull huss are the most commonly used names but its official name is the greater spotted catshark.  Bull huss are closely related to the Lesser spotted dogfish. They are not generally targeted by Cornish fishermen although their meat is good to eat, as it is extremely hard and time consuming to remove their tough abrasive skin.

Sustainability Overview

This species is rarely targeted but occasionally caught as bycatch by Cornish fishermen. Its distribution is patchy and little is known about the state of stocks of this slow growing and vulnerable species of shark.  Nursehound is listed as Near Threatened by IUCN, the World Conservation Union.

1.1 tonnes of bull huss were landed to Cornish ports in 2019 (MMO data).

Updated Jan 2021

Sustainability ratings for this species

All Applicable Methods

Cornish boats landing to Cornish Ports

Avoid eating this species, regardless of method used to catch it.

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How we rate fish

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.


Bull Huss or Nursehound are the largest cat shark species found in UK waters and are closely related to the Lesser spotted dogfish. They are a slow moving species that lives in rocky areas on and near the seabed and feeds on crustaceans fish and molluscs. They grow slowly and once mature produce a small number of large well developed eggs each year. Within each egg case one baby shark grows and when hatched they are 16cm in length. Egg laying occurs during spring and summer in shallow water. It is thought that the Fal Estuary in Cornwall is an extensive and important laying area and nursery ground for the species due to the large number of eggcases and animals found there (Orton, 1926) shallow coastal waters at Marazion and Hannafore point Looe are also important nursery areas for this species. Very high biological vulnerability rating 75 out of 100 ref Cheung et al 2005.

Stock Info

Although thought of as common in Cornwall the stock status of nursehound is generally unknown because of historical misidentification in landing data and its low, irregular appearances in scientific surveys. Latest ICES advice shows that although there have been limited studies of this species since 2011 the general trend is decline although there was a very slight increase  in stock levels in 2018.  ICES  Scientists suggest the species would benefit from a reduction in overall demersal fishing effort of 20%, as they are caught as by-catch in all these fisheries. There is no Total Allowable Catch for demersal elasmobranchs, such as nursehound. ICES advises that this species should be monitored appropriately and also recommends that catches should not increase. However, 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, and no minimum landing size for Nursehound. Given the regional differences in skate assemblages and fisheries, ICES recommends that management measures for elasmobranchs be developed on a case-by-case basis. There are also prohibitions on fishing for, retaining and landing some species, including the most severely depleted species taken as by-catch in mixed demersal fisheries. ICES does not advise that general or species specific TACs be established at present because they are not the most effective means to regulate these by-catch species. TACs alone may not adequately protect these species as there are differences among 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 Info

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 the species name. In Cornwall it is often caught in gill net fisheries.


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
MMO Landings data
ICUN red list 2021
GIBSON, C., VALENTI, S. V., FOWLER, S. L., FORDHAM, S. V. 2006. The Conservation Status of Northeast Atlantic Chondrichthyans; Report of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group Northeast Atlantic Regional Red List Workshop. VIII + 76pp. IUCN SSC SharkSpecialist Group.

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