So as of June 23rd the spiny dogfish stock in the US Atlantic was declared officially recovered. Now, as of August 3rd, the fishery is apparently petitioning the Marine Stewardship Council for sustainability certification. Now, I enjoy getting good news as much as anyone and so far I’ll take NOAA’s word for it that the spiny dogfish fishery is recovered. That said, a month and a half after the fishery is declared “recovered” is not anywhere close to long enough to consider it “sustainable,” especially when the fish takes 12 years to start pumping out offspring.
Dogfish born during the crash in the late 90s will just now start reaching reproductive age. The sharks from that year class won’t actually pup until 2012 thanks to the 2-year gestation period of the species. That means there won’t be any reasonable way to determine if the fishery is “sustainable” for at least two years. This reeks of the fishery taking the ball from NOAA and immediately trying to run as far as they can with it, and I’m not sure how responsible a move that is. I hope the MSC does a very thorough assessment, because this has the potential to open a real Pandora’s Box for other shark fisheries.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the recovery of the spiny dogfish stock is a good thing for both managers and fishermen. What I’m afraid of is that the gates have been opened for dogfish to become the “hot new fishery,” which hasn’t worked out well for them or several other sharks species in the past. Just because the stock has reached a threshold limit doesn’t mean it’s out of the woods. A lot more time and research needs to be put in to determine if we can truly feel less guilty about having spiny dogfish on our plates. Without careful management these little sharks could show just as rapid a fall as every other “boom and bust” fishery, from soupfin sharks to orange roughies.