After nearly two years of assessments and public comment, the U.S. Atlantic spiny dogfish fishery has officially been certified as Sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. This makes it the second shark or ray fishery ever to get MSC certification, and is the first multi-gear, large-scale fishery to do so (a low-quota hook and line fishery for Pacific spiny dogfish was certified first). I’ll be revisiting this in more detail as a I get a chance to read the full document, but most of my concerns and questions have been raised in previous posts. Here’s a timeline of MSC certification coverage on this blog so far:
August 2010: Two months after the Atlantic spiny dogfish stock is declared recovered, the fishery petitions the MSC for sustainability certification.
September 2010: Prominent marine and fisheries scientists raise concern over the MSC’s certification procedures.
October 2010: The British Columbia dogfish fishery is also under assessment for MSC certification.
November 2010: Ian Scott of Moody Marine Ltd., the group conducting the assessment on behalf of the MSC, explains the process.
September 2011: Moody Marine finishes the assessment for Pacific spiny dogfish in BC, and the fishery earns the coveted blue sticker. The BC fishery is a small-scale, hook and line-only fishery with low quotas, and includes respected shark conservationist Jack Musick on the assessment.
February 2012: The Atlantic spiny dogfish fishery hits its quota and closes earlier than expected. I speculate on whether this will affect the MSC assessment.
March 2012: The public comment draft report for the MSC assessment is released for the Atlantic fishery, which includes longlines, gillnets, and trawls as its primary gears. There is some concern over the level of bycatch and the fishery’s lowest marks occur in the Environmental Impact principle, but the assessment finds certification acceptable on a conditional basis.
And now we’re here. It remains to be seen whether this will encourage expansion of the U.S. Atlantic spiny dogfish fishery or have any negative affect on the population. So far the U.S. has managed to avoid the situation in Europe, where spiny dogfish is a no-take species due to a severely low population. The certification for the U.S. fishery is the start of a grand experiment. Is sustainable management of a large-scale shark fishery possible, or will we see another collapse?
This species is the primary reason cod and flounder cannot recover in the northwest Atlantic. Had the NMFS surveys a decade ago been correct the fishers would have been able to cull more out. Because of low quotas and the fact that a mature female dogfish can have as many as 3 sets of fertilized embryos at the same time at different stages of development in her body, there is no chance of cod recovering.
Federal scientists most notably Dr. Paul Rago in Woods Hole denied to me that he was aware of these multiple embryo sets 11 years ago and a few months ago denied to me that he denied that fact back then. These “scientists” know little about the spiny dogfish. NMFS a few years back ASSUMED the mortality rate of dogfish was 100% in the recreational fisheries. Had they gone to ONE processing line for a day, they would have seen many dogfish with more than one hook scar. Had they gone to the same processing line, they would have actually seen multiple sets of embryos.
Perhaps dogfish like lobsters and squid can store sperm thereby allowing them to fertilize their own eggs without the need for sex each time. More cooperative science is necessary to get control of these predators. Out of control dogfish and striped bass will continue to put fishermen out of business and leave consumers to pay huge money for a seafood dinner. Balancing nature by statute is idiocy. NMFS needs to look at the science done by SMAST, Virginia Institute of Marine Science and East Carolina University research and meld it into coherant data.
The fact that the striped bass quota in Massachusetts was filled in a few weeks should tell the scientists that there are too many out there and nature is out of whack. The primary reason there are so many lobsters is there are so few cod.
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