Profile updated on 13 September 2016





Squalus acanthias


Picked dogfish, piked dogfish


Spur dogfish, Spiny dogfish

Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) are possibly the most abundant living shark. An inshore and offshore dogfish of the continental and insular shelf and upper slopes. Usually near the bottom, but also in midwater and at the surface; occurs mainly between 10-200 m depth (Compagno 1984). Spiny dogfish are distributed in Northwest Atlantic waters between Labrador and Florida, are considered to be a unit stock in NAFO Subareas 2-6, but are most abundant from Nova Scotia to Cape Hatteras.

This is one of the most important sharks for fisheries because of its abundance in colder waters, utilization in various fisheries, and damage it does to gear and catches of other fishes. Catches of Squalus acanthias reached a peak in 1972 (73,500 t) then declined but in the last decade they have stabilized in a range between 36,000 and 51,000 t. Most of the catches reported to FAO have come firstly from area 27 (Northeast Atlantic) and then from area 21 (Northwest Atlantic) but in 1995 and 1996 catches taken in area 21 have exceeded those from area 27. The countries with the largest catches were Canada (5 536 t) and Norway (1 461 t). It is captured primarily in bottom trawls and with longlines and handlines, but also commonly with gill nets seines, fish traps, and other gear; it is also readily taken by rod and reel (Compagno 1984).


No related analysis


Management Quality:

Management Strategy:


Managers Compliance:


Fishers Compliance:


Stock Health:



Future Health:



  • Monitor the progress in closing out conditions placed upon the MSC certification of the fishery and if agreed timelines are met. Offer assistance in closing conditions where possible.


No related FIPs


  • US Atlantic spiny dogfish:

    MSC Certified


Within FishSource, the term "fishery" is used to indicate each unique combination of a flag country with a fishing gear, operating within a particular management unit, upon a resource. That resource may have a known biological stock structure and/or may be assessed at another level for practical or jurisdictional reasons. A fishery is the finest scale of resolution captured in FishSource profiles, as it is generally the scale at which sustainability can most fairly and practically be evaluated.

US Atlantic US Atlantic United States Drift gillnets
Single boat bottom otter trawls




Last updated on 27 December 2018

Recommendations to Retailers & Supply Chain
  • Monitor the progress in closing out conditions placed upon the MSC certification of the fishery and if agreed timelines are met. Offer assistance in closing conditions where possible.



Last updated on 13 September 2016

US assessments take into account mortality in Canadian waters and the U.S. spring survey extends into that area. Accordingly, this accounts for mortality if there is one stock. The U.S. and Canada now do separate assessments as the TRAC was approach did not yield results (Kulka et al. 2012; Scott and Kulka 2013).


Last updated on 13 September 2016

ICES (2011) advices on the basis of the precautionary approach that there should be no targeted fishery and that catches in mixed fisheries should be reduced to the lowest possible level. EU has a zero-TAC since 2010.

Due to recent management decisions to employ a different quota determination methodology to estimate the annual commercial quota, some members of the Committee felt that the SAW/SARC process would have been an appropriate venue to review the new quota determination model (Kulka et al. 2012; Scott and Kulka 2013).

Reference Points

Last updated on 13 Sep 2016

The BRP established in the initial (1999) FMP included a BTARGET of 180,000 mt and a BTHRESHOLD of 100,000 mt, (both expressed in terms of adult (>= 80 cm) female biomass), and an FTHRESHOLD of F=0.11 and an FTARGET of F=0.08. The threshold and target fishing mortality rates represent the full F corresponding to a knife edge fishery selectivity pattern with a minimum size of 70 cm (Kulka et al. 2012; Scott and Kulka 2013).


Last updated on 13 September 2016

Therefore, the US SC stock was declared rebuilt and it is not overfished (Rago and Sosebee 2010), and this remains the case. Stochastic model estimates of female spawning stock biomass suggest a greater than 50% chance of exceeding the biomass target. Projections suggest that the population will oscillate during the teens as the low recruitments from 1997‐2003 enter into the spawning stock but the population biomass will remain above BTHRESHOLD returning to BTARGET over time (Kulka et al. 2012; Scott and Kulka 2013).


Last updated on 13 Sep 2016

There are and have been numerous fisheries for picked dogfish around the world. There have been several cases of overexploitation of this species, which is the most abundant shark in the world (Compagno 1984), but the enormous abundance of the stocks usually prevents a total collapse and the fisheries normally stop for economic reasons. A combination of overexploitation, shifting markets and economic constraints has caused almost all picked dogfish fisheries to undergo declines (Kulka et al. 2012; Scott and Kulka 2013).

Fishable biomass of the NW Atlantic stock is estimated to have increased six-fold in the period 1968-89 to a peak of 300,000 t and then declined due to exploitation to less than 150,000 t (ICES 1998). A pronounced decrease in mean length of females has also been detected in this fishery where recently over 75% of the landed females were immature. The US Atlantic fishery is reported to have been recently declared as overexploited and a management plan is currently under preparation (ICES 1998). 

United States

Last updated on 13 September 2016


Last updated on 13 Sep 2016

US commercial landings of dogfish from NAFO Subareas 2-6 were around 500 mt in the early 1960s (Table 4.1), dropped to levels as low as 70 mt during 1963-1975 while averaging about 90 mt, and remained below 1,000 mt until the late 1970s. Landings increased to about 4,800 mt in 1979 and remained fairly steady for the next ten years at an annual average of about 4,500 mt. Landings increased sharply to 14,900 mt in 1990, dropped slightly in 1991, but continued a rapid expansion from 18,987 mt in 1992 to over 28,000 mt in 1996. Landings in 1996 were the highest recorded since 1962, exceeding previous peak years during the early 1970's when the fishing fleet was dominated by foreign vessels (Figure 1). Landings declined in in 1997 and 1998 to around 20,000 mt. In 1999, the last full year unaffected by regulations, the landings declined to 14,860 mt. US landings dropped to about 2,200 mt in 2001 and 2002 in response to quota restrictions (Kulka et al. 2012).

During the peak period of exploitation in the 1990s sink gill nets were the dominant gear. Landings in otter trawls ranged around 3,000 – 5,000 mt during this period. Both otter trawl and gill net landings decreased markedly in 2001, coincident with the rise in landings by hook gear. Landings of dogfish in drift gillnets peaked in 1998 with over 1,300 mt landed but have since declined to near zero. Spiny dogfish taken by the distant water fleets were caught almost entirely by otter trawl. Recent Canadian landings have been mainly by gill nets and longlines (Kulka et al. 2012; Scott and Kulka 2013).



Last updated on 13 September 2016

While fishery managers are responsible for selecting the fishery’s quota, the SARC could have provided some advice on the potential implications on the stock. The SARC felt it should conduct a technical review of the models used to estimate annual quotas (Kulka et al. 2012).

Recovery Plans

Last updated on 13 Sep 2016

When overfishing became evident, the U.S. harvest strategy had to comply with the provisions of the Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) (since reauthorized). As such, when SD was declared overfished in 1998, this invoked the requirement to rebuild the stock. Accordingly, managers were required to maintain exploitation below a defined level of fishing mortality, FREBUILD that would lead to SSB reaching or exceeding the BMSY proxy within a 10-year rebuilding horizon. SSBMAX, the (female) spawning stock biomass that is thought to result in the maximum projected recruitment was used as the proxy for BMSY for SD v (Kulka et al. 2012).

Spiny dogfish are not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. Spiny dogfish was declared ‘rebuilt’ in 2008 when SSB exceeded the target for the first time since the ASMFC began managing spiny dogfish in 2002. Prior to the ‘rebuilt’ status, quotas were based on the short term target Frebuild = 0.11. The FMP allows for quotas based on Ftarget (as opposed to the more conservative Frebuild) “once the mature female portion of the spawning stock has reached the target (Scott and Kulka 2013).


ETP Species

Last updated on 13 September 2016

Smith et al. (1998) found that the picked dogfish has the lowest intrinsic rebound potential of the 26 shark species they analysed. This is due to the extreme biological characteristics of this species, which is very slow growing and attains sexual maturity after many years. The abundance of picked dogfish is certainly very high in general but the declines in several heavily exploited stocks signal the high likelihood of impacting individual stocks if not managed properly (Kulka et al. 2012).

Other Species

Last updated on 13 September 2016

Owing to their ubiquitous distribution, dogfish are caught in a wide variety of fisheries. Owing to their low price per pound and need for special handling procedures onboard, dogfish are often discarded if more valuable species are present. Hence, high rates of dogfish bycatch and discards are expected. Previous assessments of spiny dogfish in the Northeast US have emphasized the need to estimate discard rates in other fisheries. In NEFSC (1994) preliminary analysis suggested that total discards were about the same order of magnitude at the commercial fishery. SARC 19 accepted provisional estimates of discard morality of 0.75 in gillnets and 0.5 in otter trawls but noted the considerable uncertainty in these estimates. To our knowledge, no scientific studies of post-capture survival rates have been conducted for spiny dogfish (Kulka et al. 2012).


Last updated on 13 September 2016

The spiny dogfish is potentially impacted also by habitat loss and degradation which relate to coastal development, pollution, dredging and bottom trawling that affect the coastal or benthic habitats on which spiny dogfish or their prey rely (ASMFC 2002).

FishSource Scores




No data available
No data available
No data available
No data available
No data available
No data available
No data available
No data available
No data available
No data available
No data available
No data available

No related analysis

Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs)

No related FIPs


Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)



US Atlantic spiny dogfish


MSC Certified on 30 August 2012


Principle Level Scores:

Principle Score
Principle 1 – Target Species 84.4
Principle 2 - Ecosystem: Gillnet 81.0
Principle 2 - Ecosystem: Trawl 83.7
Principle 2 - Ecosystem: Longline 81.3
Principle 3 – Management System: Gillnet and Trawl 93.3
Principle 3 – Management System: Longline 92.8

This fishery includes 6 Unit of certification: Federal waters and State waters and 3 gears.

Certification Type: Silver


  1. Kulka, D., Rivard, D., Scott. I., 2012. The United States Atlantic Fishery. version 5 - Public Certification Report. Moody Marine Ltd, August 2012. 377pp

  2. Mateo, I., Aldous, D., 2015. MSC Surveillance Report for the US Atlantic Spiny Dogfish Fishery. SAI Global Assurance Services, February 2015. 77pp

  3. Mateo, I., Aldous, D., 2015. MSC Verification Report for the Corrective Action Plan of the Sustainable Fisheries Association for US Atlantic Spiny Dogfish Fishery. SAI Global Assurance Services, May 2015. 8pp

  4. Scott, I., Kulka, D., 2013. MSC Certification Surveillance Audit – The United States Atlantic Fishery for Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias). Intertek Moody Marine, December 2013. 54pp

  5. Compagno, L.J.V., 1984. FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 1 - Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(4/1):1-249. Rome: FAO. 

  6. Rago, P.J. and Sosebee, K.A., 2010. Biological reference points for spiny dogfish. Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Reference Document, pp.10-06.



    This tab will disappear in 5 seconds.

    Comments on:

    Picked dogfish - US Atlantic

    comments powered by Disqus