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Starry Smoothound by Marc Dando


Smoothounds are sleek, silvery sharks with a highly sensory muzzle that feed on small invertebrates and fish  which they pick up from the seabed. They give birth to live young. They are not historically targeted by fishermen but are often caught as by-catch.

Sustainability Overview

Not often offered for sale in the UK, smoothound sharks are little studied but are not a good choice to go for as like all sharks they are more vulnerable to fishing than most species of fish.

108 tonnes of smoothhounds were landed to Cornish ports in 2021, with a value of £61k (MMO data).

Sustainability ratings for this species

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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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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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.


There are two species of smoothounds in our waters, the starry smoothound which has small, white, star-like skin-teeth punctuating its silver grey flanks and common smoothound which is grey all over. Both are biologically very similar. They are relatively fast growing for sharks but are still vulnerable to over fishing as they give birth to a small number of highly developed young each year (gestation is 11 months, with 4 -15 young produced at a time) and take a long time to reach maturity. Biological vulnerability rating 52% (Cheung et al, 2005).

Stock Info

This stock has not be well studied and little is known about its. As a precautionary approach ICES say that catches should be reduced by 4%. Smoothounds are difficult to studay as they are highly migratory and available information is made more difficult to analyse because of historical misidentification in landings data. ICUN list smoothhounds as of least concern. Catches landed to Cornish ports appear to have increased but it is likely that this is due to better standards of monitoring of shark and ray catches. Around 120 tonnes are landed each year. There is a market for smoothounds in Northern Europe.



The Starry Smoothhound is a widespread although not abundant species. It is taken as bycatch in trawl and gillnet fisheries but there does not appear to be any immediate threat from overexploitation in the Atlantic (Ellis, 2000)..There is no quota for smoothounds. They are not commercially targeted but often make up a considerable by catch in trawl and gill net fisheries. 

Capture Info

Caught mainly as bycatch in trawl and gill net fisheries.


ICES WGEF report 2018 (page 596)
ICES Avice Smoothhound 2019
ICES Advice Smoothound 2017
Fish base smoothound
ICES advice October 2014 Starry smooth-hound (Mustelus spp.) in the Northeast Atlantic
MMO landings data
Shark Trust; 2010. An Illustrated Compendium of Sharks, Skates, Rays and Chimaera. Chapter 1: The British Isles and Northeast Atlantic. Part 2: Sharks. 
ELLIS, J. 2000. Mustelus asterias. In: IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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