About the Species
U.S. wild-caught Pacific spiny dogfish is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.
The Pacific Coast stock is above target population levels.
At recommended levels.
Fishermen generally do not directly target spiny dogfish in waters off the Pacific Coast and Alaska. As a result, there are no habitat impacts from a directed fishery.
Fishermen generally do not directly target spiny dogfish in waters off the Pacific Coast and Alaska. As a result, there are no bycatch impacts from a directed fishery.
There are three stocks of Pacific spiny dogfish: Pacific coast, Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, and Gulf of Alaska. According to the most recent stock assessments:
The Pacific coast stock is not overfished (2011 stock assessment), and not subject to overfishing based on 2019 catch data. Summary stock assessment information can be found on Stock SMART.
The Pacific spiny dogfish stock is managed as part of the Bering Sea / Aleutian Islands Shark Complex and has been assessed, but there is not enough information to determine the population size so the overfished status is unknown (2016 stock assessment). This complex is not subject to overfishing based on 2020 catch data. Summary stock assessment information can be found on Stock SMART.
The Pacific spiny dogfish stock is managed as part of the Gulf of Alaska Complex and has been assessed, but there is not enough information to determine the population size so the overfished status is unknown (2020 stock assessment). This complex is not subject to overfishing based on 2020 catch data. Summary stock assessment information can be found on Stock SMART.
- Spiny dogfish are slim with a narrow, pointed snout and distinctive white spots.
- Their bodies are gray above and white below.
- True to their name, they have sharp spines in front of each of their two dorsal fins.
- Spiny dogfish live a long time, sometimes more than 80 years.
- They grow slowly, up to more than 4 feet and 22 pounds, although adults are generally 2½ to 3½ feet long.
- Spiny dogfish aren’t able to reproduce until they’re older – females mature at an average age of 35, males mature at an average age of 19.
- Female spiny dogfish are internally fertilized, and pups are retained in utero for 18 to 22 months. Depending on their size, female spiny dogfish can have up to 22 pups each reproductive cycle.
- Females generally release their young during the fall in shallow bays.
- The newborn pups range in length from 8½ to 12 inches.
- Spiny dogfish are opportunistic feeders, eating whatever prey is available. They mainly eat small, schooling pelagic fish such as herring, and small invertebrates such as shrimp, crab, and squid.
- They are preyed upon by larger species of shark, including larger spiny dogfish, and by larger fishes (such as cod and hake), seals, and killer whales.
Where They Live
- Pacific spiny dogfish are found from the Bering Sea to Baja California.
- They are more common off the U.S. West Coast and British Columbia than in the Gulf of Alaska or the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands region.
- NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council manage Pacific spiny dogfish on the West Coast.
- Managed under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan:
- Part of the “other fish complex” that includes all of the non-flatfish or rockfish species managed under the groundfish fishery management plan, which is not assessed.
- Managers set acceptable catch limits for the complex and limit the amount of spiny dogfish fishermen can harvest per fishing trip.
- Harvests are carefully monitored in commercial fisheries through the West Coast Observer Program and landing reports.
- Coastwide, depth-based closed areas designed to protect overfished groundfish species.
- NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council manage Pacific spiny dogfish in Alaska.
- Managed under the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Groundfish Fishery Management Plan and Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Fishery Management Plan:
- Part of the shark complex.
- Managers set a total allowable catch for stock complexes every year, based on annual stock assessments.
- Catch limits for the complex are the sum of the recommended limits for each species in the complex.
- In 2020, commercial landings of Pacific spiny dogfish totaled approximately 650,000 million pounds and were valued at more than $13,000, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database.
- Spiny dogfish is a low-value species and is mostly taken as bycatch in Pacific coast–based fisheries targeting other commercially important species.
- There are currently no directed commercial fisheries for shark species in federally or state-managed waters of Alaska. Spiny dogfish are caught incidentally in fisheries for halibut and groundfish. Nearly all shark catch is discarded at sea, but some spiny dogfish are retained as incidental catch in state-managed fisheries.
- Spiny dogfish are generally not targeted by anglers off the Pacific coast or Alaska. However, due to their aggressive feeding nature, spiny dogfish tend to bite baited hooks and are incidentally caught in many recreational fisheries.
- Off the Pacific coast, spiny dogfish are considered a bottomfish so they are restricted by the recreational coastwide aggregate limit (although most are released because they’re not highly valued) as well as all other applicable bottomfish recreational restrictions (depth, season, etc.).
- In Alaska, anglers have annual bag limits for sharks of any kind.