This weekend (1 April) UK fishermen were once more able to fish Northeast Atlantic spurdog in UK waters as the latest scientific evidence revealed the stock is recovering and can support landings in 2023 and 2024.
Spurdog (Squalus acanthias), also known as picked or spiny dogfish, are a type of shark species that inhabit UK waters. They have been managed as a prohibited species in UK and EU waters for around five years to facilitate stock recovery. But now, following a recently updated scientific assessment, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has advised the stock is recovering and landings of spurdog can be supported again.
Fisheries Minister Mark Spencer said:
“Through the management of spurdog as a prohibited species, we have enabled stocks to recover to the point where our fishing industry can once again fish this species commercially on a sustainable basis.
“We will continue to use the latest scientific advice and monitor stocks to ensure appropriate management measures are in place to protect the species, cementing our commitment to establish a sustainable and profitable UK fishing industry for generations to come”.
A total allowable catch (TAC) has been agreed for North-east Atlantic Spurdog at the UK – EU fisheries negotiations, with the UK receiving a quota allocation of 2,781 tonnes in the North Sea and 4,825 tonnes in Western waters for 2023.
North Sea spurdog quota will be shared between the UK Fisheries Administrations in England, Scotland, Wales and NI using existing fixed quota allocation units for allocation to industry groups. Western spurdog quota will be kept unallocated and managed by monthly tonnage limits in UK vessel licences, with limits being closely monitored and adjusted as necessary once more data is gathered on the fishery.
As part of the UK’s precautionary approach to reopening the fishery, a reserve of 25% of the North Sea quota will be held by the UK government, with a decision on allocating this reserve to be made later this year. The UK and EU will also prohibit landings of spurdog over 100cm in length to discourage the targeting of larger females and provide protection for the breeding stock.
The UK will continue to gather more information on the stock as part of this approach, and additional measures could be introduced if necessary.
Full details on our new approach and updated Spurdog guidance can be found on GOV.UK.