Sustainable Canadian Dogfish

This week the Vancouver Sun has been running a series of articles on shark fisheries and conservation (found via Underwater Times).  There’s a lot of good stuff there, and just about all of it is actually very positive and pro-shark, which can be frustratingly rare in the news media.  Since the main focus of this blog is spiny dogfish and fisheries, one article in particular caught my attention.

Back in August I posted about the US Atlantic spiny dogfish fishery petitioning the Marine Stewardship Council to be certified as a sustainable fishery, and you can track the progress of the MSC’s assessment here.  It now seems that the Atlantic fishery is not the only dogfish fishery vying for that coveted sustainability certification.  British Columbia also has a spiny dogfish fishery, and is throwing their hat into the ring.

Proving that this particular series is a damn good example of shark journalism, the article not only mentions the accurate age at maturity for North Pacific dogfish (35 years for females), but also goes into detail about how Moody Marine Ltd. (the same group performing the assessment for the Atlantic fishery) will be reviewing the fishery.  According to the article there is currently insufficient information on the health of the stock, so Moody is conducting what is called a “risk-based assessment,” in which basically everything known about the stock and the fishery is compiled and analyzed.

The caveat here is that North Pacific spiny dogfish are different from spiny dogfish found elsewhere in the world, possibly to the point of being a totally different species.  Due to significant differences in basic life history characteristics like age at maturity and maximum size, spiny dogfish from the Pacific coast of Canada would need to be managed differently than those from New England and even those from places like Chile in the south Pacific.  At the very least this population needs to be managed as its own distinct stock.

I stand by my statement that, as the first shark fishery to be assessed for sustainability, the spiny dogfish fishery has the potential to become a game-changer.  Whatever decision is made regarding the sustainability of the dogfish fishery needs to be based on good science over economics and the relative popularity of the fish.

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