Rock Salmon
Spiny Dogfish © Andy Murch.

Some shark species - such as Spiny Dogfish and Smallspotted Catshark - have commercially unappealing names. Over the years, in order to sell meat from these species, retailers have introduced a variety of more saleable ‘marketing names’ – most of which offer few clues as to the actual species. In the UK the most common of these is Rock Salmon - a more appealing name used predominantly to sell Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias), but also Nursehounds (Scyliorhinus  stellaris) and Smallspotted Catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula).

Spiny Dogfish

Spiny Dogfish - also known as Spurdog and Piked Dogfish - were once amongst the most abundant species of shark in the world. However intense fishing pressure brought many populations around the world to the brink of catastrophe. The IUCN Shark Specialist Group estimated that the Northeast Atlantic population has declined by over 95% and are now listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List in this region.

Consumed in many European countries, Spiny Dogfish have historically been favoured by fish and chip shops in the UK, yet are mostly sold under the ambiguous name of Rock Salmon. Many customers who purchase this are therefore unlikely to realise they are buying a vulnerable species of shark. Although this species has a zero Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and cannot be landed in EU waters by EU and third country vessels, it can still be imported from other nations which do permit landings so it is legal to trade.

Dogfish, Flake, Rock, Huss, Rigg and Rock Eel

In the UK Rock Salmon is the most commonly used marketing name, however there are others. Flake, Rigg, Rock, Huss, Dogfish and Rock Eel are marketing names used to sell Tope (Galeorhinus galeus), smoothhound (Mustelus species), catsharks (Scyliorhinus species), Blackmouth Catshark (Galeus melastomus) – and on occasion, the Spiny Dogfish. 

These marketing names are not necessarily used to intentionally mislead consumers - many are traditional, regional or colloquial names for shark species. To find out which species are permitted to be sold under a product name, download the Department for Environment, Food & Rural AffairsCommercial Designations of Fish.

If you see Rock Salmon (or any of the other marketing names mentioned above) for sale do ask the retailer what species it is. If you would like more information or clarification on shark products please contact us.

Please remember it is legal to sell Spiny Dogfish, providing it is not caught from an EU fishery.

➤ Download the Spiny Dogfish Fisheries Advisory (pdf)