Biology and Management of Dogfish Sharks

1. Spiny Dogfish Management: Toward the Rehabilitation of an Underappreciated Species

Gordon A. McFarlane, Marc L. Miller, and Vincent F. Gallucci

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874073.ch2

Some fish seem, for their commercial value, history of importance to society, and even their beauty, to virtually demand human attention in the form of fishery management. Cod, salmon, halibut, and the large pelagics, such as swordfish and tunas, come quickly to mind in this regard.

The spiny dogfish Squalus acanthias has an altogether different kind of relationship with humanity, as illustrated by its mundane name. Although the dogfish is a shark, it is not generally called a shark. As a result, the dogfish loses the power of the shark imagery in the popular imagination. To say “shark” is to evoke in the listener images of a noble, powerful, and sublime icon. To say “dogfish” is to generate an entirely different response.

The spiny dogfish is unique among the sharks for several reasons that are explored in this book. One of primary interest concerns its association with human societies. It has a unique history, both culturally and economically, in most areas of the world. Over the last century and more, it has been the target of major fisheries worldwide. It has played a cultural role in early North American, Asian, and European societies. Dogfish biology is equally fascinating; dogfish are long-lived, slow-growing, late-maturing, and have a gestation period whose length is rivaled by only a few other animals.

Despite their cultural and culinary importance, dogfish have, from the times of Pliny the Elder in the first century A.D. and continuing into the present, vexed fishers pursuing the harvest of other species and have acquired the reputation of being a nuisance. In the recent past, the dogfish has been vilified by commercial and sport fishers alike. The species has been blamed for declines in abundance of other valuable fish through predation, and for destroying fishing gear. Reports of fishers doing ghastly things to dogfish are common.