UK moving to reopen fishery for a once-endangered species

A spurdog, also known as a spiny dogfish, swimming off the coast of Norway.

The United Kingdom is planning to reopen a fishery for spurdog, also known as spiny dogfish – a once-endangered species of shark – for landings in 2023. 

The species has been managed for the last five years as a prohibited species, meaning the stock was too low to support a commercial fishery. The latest advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas indicates the stock has recovered enough to support commercial landings, allowing the U.K. and E.U. to reopen the fisheries.

According to the U.K. government, delegations from the U.K. and the E.U. met between November and December 2022 to discuss fishing opportunities for 2023, and the heads of delegations agreed to recommend fishery arrangements for spurdog. 

After the recommendations, a Statutory Instrument was laid in parliament on 8 March, which will come into force on 1 April, reopening a quota for the species.

“After over five years of management as a prohibited species, the latest evidence shows Northeast Atlantic spurdog stock is recovering and can support fishing landings in 2023 and 2024,” U.K. Minister of Food, Farming, and Fisheries Mark Spencer said in a release. “This week we have therefore taken an important step towards re-opening the UK spurdog fishery.”

A Statutory Instrument is a form of legislation allowing an act of Parliament to brought into force without the U.K. Parliament needing to pass a new act – allowing the fisheries minister to make decisions without parliamentary approval so long as the power was granted in the original act. 

A quota for the species has not been set by U.K., but ICES advice suggests that the maximum sustainable yield in 2023 across all fisheries – including the E.U. – should be no more than 17,353 metric tons (MT), and the MSY in 2024 should not exceed 17,855 MT.

Establishing a fishery would be a significant turnaround for the spurdog species, which underwent a stock collapse in the late 2000s. European NGOs pushed for the end of all spurdog fishing, and groups like Oceana urged Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) protection for the species. It was also considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature to be a “critically endangered” species in 2009. 

Spencer said the U.K. plans to continue ensuring the sustainability of the species now that it has recovered enough to maintain a fishery.

“This decision follows the latest scientific advice and we will monitor the situation closely, supporting our commitment to establish a sustainable and profitable U.K. fishing industry,” Spencer said. “I know that this move will be welcomed by U.K. fishermen and further details on quota allocation will be set out in due course.”

Photo courtesy of Joern_k/Shutterstock


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