Tip o’ the hat to Jen for bringing this to my attention. Oregon is among the states putting through bans on the trade and sale of shark fins. However, looking at the legislation itself, I can’t help but notice a key part. The legislation explicitly excludes spiny dogfish from all other species of sharks, and states that possession and sale of shark fins is prohibited except in the case of dogfish. So in Oregon, you’ll still be able possess and sell spiny dogfish fins, which has some serious implications.
This has eerie similarities to the compromise in the Federal law related to shark finning, which states that sharks must be landed with fins attached except in the case of smooth dogfish. This was done mostly as a nod to one of the few high-volume shark fisheries, and smooth dogfish may be more capable of sustaining heavy fishing pressure than other sharks.
Spiny dogfish in the North Pacific are also a high-volume shark fishery. However, “spiny dogfish” in the North Pacific are actually a different species with different life history characteristics than spiny dogfish elsewhere in the world. While smooth dogfish are relatively fast-growing and reproduce at a fairly young age, North Pacific spiny dogfish are even more slow-growing and low-fecundity than their South Pacific and Atlantic counterparts. North Pacific dogfish may not be able to sustain fishing pressure, especially with the likely increase that will come from them being the only legal source of shark fins.
Also, the legislation defines spiny dogfish not as Squalus suckleyi or Squalus acanthias, but as any member of the family Squalidae. Which means that if a fisherman were to catch any member of the dogfish family in Oregon waters, they could possess and sell the fins. At least they narrowed it down family (if it was just down to Squaliformes then even Pacific sleeper sharks would be acceptable for the fin trade), but this does still include several deep sea species, many of which are poorly understood biologically.
As with smooth dogfish, the Federal law will prohibit spiny dogfish fins from being landed alone, which means that dogfish will still not be subject to the cruel and wasteful practice of finning and throwing the finless shark back into the sea. Plus, dogfish meat has a decent market value, therefore the bodies will likely be landed anyway.
I still support fin bans wherever they happen and still think any shark conservation measure is a good thing, but it’s interesting to see the compromise of the Federal law being mirrored on a state level with a different species. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a bigger controversy down the road.
I lived in Oregon up until October of last year, but I may still be writing my former representatives about this. I think that the fishing of any shark species is pretty disgusting consdering how many species are endangered, or at the very least threatened. As you stated, North Pacific dogfish are classified as a unique species and they are not as sustainable as species elsewhere.
Fortunately in the state of Washington where I live now at least sleeper sharks are completely protected, but I’m not sure about spiny dogfish.