Things had been going pretty well for U.S. dogfish fisheries. In June 2010, after half a decade of an essentially closed fishery, the U.S. Atlantic stock was considered rebuilt. Shortly after, representatives of the fishery petitioned and successfully received sustainability certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Meanwhile, the west coast fishery received MSC certification for a very low-quota, hook and line fishery for Pacific spiny dogfish. On both coasts, spiny dogfish had gone from a species in peril to an apparently “green” seafood choice.
So with this part of the re-branding of dogfish going so well, why would the first ever certified sustainable shark fishery voluntarily pull it’s own certification? As of right now the only official explanation is that there have not been many dogfish landed in the hook and line fishery, and no real processing has been going on. Basically, The fishery withdrew its certification because it wasn’t actually fishing.
The answer might be that while attempts to label spiny dogfish as a green seafood option have been successful, efforts to get it to catch on in the U.S. have not. Fishermen have certainly been landing dogfish, especially in the more industrialized Atlantic fishery. The problem is that all these dogfish haven’t been selling, leading to a huge surplus in the market, which translated to an absurdly low payout for fishermen at the fish house. This has lead the industry to petition the USDA to buy up some of that surplus dogfish to get it out of the market and hopefully draw the price back up. With the price low enough to justify that measure, it’s no wonder hook and line groundfishermen in the Pacific Northwest are choosing to release their eco-certified dogfish in favor of more valuable species.
The dogfish fishery has been successful at rebuilding their stock, raising their quotas, and catching their fish. Unfortunately, they still need to find someone to eat those fish.