Spiny Dogfish Officially Recovered

I’m embarrassingly late in finding out about this, especially given that spiny dogfish and fisheries management are two of the main focuses of this blog, but the latest issue of Fisheries includes a blurb about the classification of the spiny dogfish stock as “officially recovered.”  After searching the interweb, I found that sure enough, NOAA had made this announcement on June 23rd.  I guess that’s why I’m not considered a real journalist.

This declaration means NOAA can now allow an extra 3 million pounds of dogfish to be harvested this year, increasing the catch limit from 12 million to 15 million pounds, and it can be reasonably expected that this will increase next year.  What I’ve found on this so far is annoyingly short on detail: the official press release says that the new catch limit accounts for concerns over the recent drops in fecundity for the species and the fact that the male/female ratio is still a bit out of whack, but doesn’t elaborate on how (aside from 15 million pounds possibly being a little low for a catch limit).  Here’s hoping that this is an actual victory for the management of the species (though some would argue that they were never in trouble to begin with) and not a purely political move.  If it is indeed a management success, then we need to start taking notes: spiny dogfish may be useful as a model for how to manage a shark fishery (though we definitely need to see if this can be sustained in the long term).

2010 has been quite the roller coaster ride for spiny dogfish, from the CITES debacle to this.  While I’m of the mind that spiny dogfish are incredibly awesome animals and deserving of smart management, I also agree that fishermen need to eat.  My personal opinion on dogfish conservation has long been that this species needs regional protection rather than a flat-out ban across the planet.  Apparently we have plenty here in the US of A, but Germany put the species forward at CITES for a reason: dogfish (and a lot of the skate species we would consider “trash” here) have been crashing in the North Sea and possibly also the Mediterranean.  Protections for dogfish make a lot of sense in European waters, but may not necessarily make sense for American fisheries.

I’ll be keeping my nose to the ground on this story, and hopefully won’t miss any news on it by 2 frickin’ months next time.