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Updated on October 14, 2014

Dogfish - Spiny Dogfish - Horn Dog Sharks

This page has information on a species of small shark called dogfish, horndogs or spiny dogfish. Dogfish are small sharks. In much of their range, they are plentiful, with schools sometimes being enormous.

Voracious almost beyond belief, the dogfish entirely deserves its bad reputation. Not only does it harry and drive off mackerel, herring, and even fish as large as cod and haddock, but it destroys vast numbers of them. Again and again fishermen have described packs of dogs dashing among schools of mackerel, and even attacking them within the seines, biting through the net, and releasing such of the catch as escapes them. At one time or another they prey on practically all species of Gulf of Maine fish smaller than themselves, and squid are also a regular article of diet whenever they are found." (Fishes of the Gulf of Maine, Bigelow, H.B. and W.C. Schroeder, 1953)

The Dogfish Follies website states, "According to on-the-water observations by a multitude of commercial and recreational fishermen, there are so many spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) in the coastal waters from Cape Hatteras to Canada that they are significantly interfering with many of our major fisheries. The latest information from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is that the total biomass (based on a 3 year average for 2003 to 2005) was 835 million pounds, but many experienced fishermen believe that these small sharks, which have always been known as nuisance fish, are now present in unprecedented numbers (in the middle 1980s their total biomass approached a million metric tons). They occur in huge schools that make it all but impossible to fish, clogging nets and damaging the commercial catch or taking baited hooks that are meant for targeted species. "

Dogfish Cuisine

These fish are popular in several types of cuisines. The meat of dogfish is boneless, white and firm. It has a slightly higher fat content than most sharks, which is concentrated in the belly flaps. The little extra fat helps keep the flesh moist when cooked.

Dogfish are cooked by just about any technique -- grilling, baking, broiling, microwaving, poaching, or stir-frying. The meat may be filleted off the center piece of cartilage (there are no bones), or cut into chunks. Once cooked, the cartilage lifts right out.

In the UK, the shark's torso is used to prepare the country's culinary mainstay, fish and chips. The Chinese use the dogfish fin to make shark fin soup. And in Germany, the belly flaps are smoked and turned into a popular dish called "schillerlocken." In other parts of the EU, leftover morsels are transformed into tasty pickled beer garden snacks.

Spiny dogfish are less popular in American cuisine. "If not bled right away, the dogfish has a strong taste the U.S. consumer just doesn't like," says Terry Stockwell, the director of external affairs for Maine's Department of Marine Resources.

Understanding the U.S. Federal Regulations for Dogfish

The ASMFC Spiny Dogfish and Coastal Sharks Management Board has approved the initiation of two addenda to address the distribution of the spiny dogfish annual quota among the states. This action responds to the concern of some states that the current seasonal allocation program is not providing their commercial fishermen the opportunity to harvest the available quota as was intended by the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Spiny Dogfish.

Currently, the interstate spiny dogfish management program allocates the annual commercial quota both seasonally and regionally. The seasonal allocation system divides the quota into two periods, with 57.9 percent of the quota harvested from May 1 to October 31 and 42.1 percent harvested from November 1 to April 30. The regional allocation system divides the quota between two regions, with 58 percent allocated to the northern states (ME - CT) and 42 percent allocated to the southern states (NY - NC). Both allocation schemes were established to allow all states the opportunity to access and land available quota based on historical landings percentages. In recent years, however, the seasonal allocation strategy, which is influenced by dogfish migratory patterns, has resulted in overages of the northern quota share and reduced access to the resource by the southern states.

The first addendum (Draft Addendum II) will propose the elimination of the current seasonal allocation system, while maintaining the standing regional allocation system. To ensure that the regions stay within their allocation of the annual quota and maintain the conservation goals of the plan, the addendum will propose that regions be required to payback quota overages in the following year. It is the Board's intent that this addendum will ensure southern states receive 42 percent of the annual quota while Addendum III is developed.

The second addendum (Draft Addendum III) will provide options for the establishment of a state-by-state allocation system, including a provision that would allow quota transfers between states. The Board has requested that the states submit issues and ideas for inclusion in the draft addendum.

Both addenda will be developed for consideration by the Board during the Commission's the Summer Meeting in August. For more information, please contact Christopher Vonderweidt, Fisheries Management Plan Coordinator, at (202) 289-6400 or

USA Mid Atlantic - New England Spiny Dogfish Stocks Fully Rebuilt

On June 23, 2010, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the jointly managed (Mid-Atlantic and New England Councils) spiny dogfish stock has been rebuilt.

Fishermen Organized for Rational Dogfish Management (FORDM)

Commercial and recreational fishermen, charter operations, and businesses that support and rely on them have formed an organization to combat spiny dogfish populations that have grown out of control and begun to affect nearly every East Coast fishery.

The ad-hoc group, called Fishermen Organized for Rational Dogfish Management (FORDM), unites stakeholders from South Carolina up to Maine in order to bring attention to the issue and seek answers.

In one of its first actions as a group, FORDM sent a letter to NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco explaining the problems with spiny dogfish and asking for assistance.

Dogfish Feedback

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