Importance of Natural Resources

Shark Conservation and the Spiny Dogfish

NOAA Fisheries The science behind shark conservation and the spiny dogfish. Introducing Tobey Curtis, NOAA Fisheries Shark Researcher My name is Tobey Curtis. I’m a shark researcher and Fishery Policy Analyst for NOAA Fisheries. I’ve conducted research on the West Coast and the East Coast on sharks. I’ve studies white sharks in the past, bull sharks in Florida. I was a fishery observer for a number of years, studying sharks in the long-line shark fishing fleet off of Florida and most recently I’ve been studying basking sharks here off of New England, doing satellite tagging research. Why is shark conservation important? Sharks are of great conservation concern worldwide because they’ve been overfished in just about every ocean where they’ve been accessible to foreign fishing fleets. Fortunately here in the U.S. we’ve got ahead of the curve and we’re trying to manage them now and some stocks are recovering, some faster than others but we’re making progress and the U.S. really is a world leader when it comes to shark conservation. What’s a hot species for conservation? Spiny dogfish Spiny dogfish is an important fishery in New England. It’s the largest volume shark fishery in the country. Like other sharks, they are actually very long-lived. They’re very late to mature and they have few young. So they’re very vulnerable to overfishing and we’ve done a lot of research here off the northeast to study their population dynamics and we monitor their population annually with the trawl survey conducted by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center and that has allowed us to really do some quite good stock assessments and over time we’ve shown that the population has definitely rebounded from the overfishing era of the 1990s. How did the spiny dogfish make a comeback from overfishing? The main focus of the spiny dogfish recovery plan was reducing quotas and trip limits for the fishery. So the fishing fleet took quite a hit a number of years early on and had very restrictive quotas and trip limits but towards the end of that rebuilding plan, as of 2010 they’ve rebuilt and the quotas have increased dramatically as have the trip limits since then. So, can we eat spiny dogfish? People eat spiny dogfish mainly in Europe as fish and chips. Almost all the products caught here in the U.S. are exported to Europe. Tobey, any final thoughts on shark conservation? Sharks are very important to marine ecosystems worldwide and it’s very important to conserve them because they’re top predators in the environment, they control fish populations that they feed on and they’re important to the balance of marine ecosystems, so their conservation is very important and they’re very vulnerable to overfishing, so precautionary management is really needed for sharks. NOAA Fisheries CREDITS & COPYRIGHT Basking shark footage: POND 5 First underwater shot of spiny dogfish shark (Squalus acanthias) feeding in tank: SULIKOWSKI SHARK and FISH RESEARCH LAB, University of New England spiny dogfish shark: SEATTLE AQUARIUM

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