Still up in Massachusetts doing a little dogfish tagging, but we’ve taken a couple days off to recuperate and let the weather finish clearing up. It’s already been much better weather and far more productive than the last time we came up, and I’ll have the recap up once I get back down south (and download the photos from this trip). In the meantime, I’ve got some interesting information about spiny dogfish management in Europe courtesy of Shark Advocates International.
As I’ve mentioned here before, a lot of the concern over spiny dogfish stocks springs from Europe, which is a pretty bad place to be for any elasmobranch. Many of the small shark and skate species we take for granted in U.S. waters are rare sights in the Mediterranean and North Seas due to the fact that those seas have been fished basically since the dawn of Western civilization. Also, so many countries border these bodies of water that it’s extremely difficult to wrangle them into any kind of meaningful fisheries management (see CITES and bluefin tuna management for examples). The rarity of spiny dogfish in these areas drives most of the demand for the American dogfish fishery.
Apparently there has been some progress made in spiny dogfish management and conservation in European waters. Around the same time that attempts to list spiny dogfish (among other species) on CITES failed, the European Union managed to reduce the quota for dogfish and porbeagles to zero. This was largely overlooked in the wake of the CITES debacle (including by me) but is actually more effective by putting conservation measures in place where the dogfish are most threatened. Scotland has gone one step further by making spiny dogfish a catch-and-release only species, which should drastically reduce mortality from recreational fisheries.
These European policies have the dual benefit of helping preserve what remains of the North Sea spiny dogfish stocks and also ensuring that there will be strong demand from Europe for American dogfish. We’ve already seen that conservative management can bring spiny dogfish into recovery with surprising quickness, but European dogfish are in worse shape than those in American waters have ever been. How long it will take spiny dogfish on the other side of the Atlantic to recover is still anyone’s guess.