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The British Columbia spiny dogfish fishery has received Marine Stewardship Council certification, making it the world’s first spiny dogfish fishery to earn the distinction.

The fishery was entered into assessment by the B.C. Dogfish Hook & Line Industry Association, an organization representing more than 90 percent of the vessels fishing for dogfish and all processors that convert the fish into market-ready products.

The fishery is managed within the precautionary framework of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). DFO Canada sets the annual total allowable catch levels based upon the long-term average yield of the fishery. Catch levels over the last 20 years have been approximately 3,000 metric tons annually, which is below the annual allowable catch. Reviews conducted in 2009 concluded that spiny dogfish stock is stable and that current catch levels were unlikely to cause harmful stock declines. In 2011, DFO Canada set an even lower allowable catch, as a further precautionary measure. In 2009-10, the hook and line fishery caught 3,147 metric tons of spiny dogfish.

The assessment team concluded that the bottom longlines used in the certified fishery resulted in a selective fishery with more than 90 percent of catch weight made up of the target species. Although the fishery encounters a broad range of other species, including some endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species, the numbers encountered are very low and survival rates high. Catches are monitored by a sophisticated monitoring system that combines on-board cameras that records all catch, logbooks that are maintained by the boat captains, and audits of the system that are conducted by independent auditors.

The assessment also found that the bottom long lines used by the fishery have a relatively low impact on the seabed and that the fishery was unlikely to have a significant impact on habitat. In addition, three improvement actions were identified and are required to be carried out within five years: developing an analytical stock assessment, implementing a sixgill shark management plan and creating a research plan. 

“On a global basis, many species in the shark family are vulnerable to overfishing. The B.C. spiny dogfish fishery is the first of its type to demonstrate, through assessment to the MSC’s rigorous, scientific standard, that the fishery is being conducted and managed in a sustainable manner. We hope this will inspire other fisheries harvesting this species to achieve this bar,” said Kerry Coughlin, MSC Americas regional director.

The certification applies only to line-caught spiny dogfish from British Columbia. Currently, 24 vessels are registered to particpate in the certified fishery. In 2009-10 directed dogfish hook & line vessels accounted for 92 percent of total spiny dogfish landings in the province.

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