Spurdog bycatch incident, Imogen III Newlyn

11 Aug 2015

UK// The Shark Trust has been working with government agencies, the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation (CFPO) and the crew of the Imogen III to secure the best possible outcome from what is an unprecedented occurrence. Spurdog (also known as Spiny Dogfish) aggregate by size and sex forming dense shoals and, as an Endangered species, it is essential to apply a strict management regime with no incentive to retain bycatch, even under such circumstances.What is vital is to ensure that as much as possible is learnt from this incident, feeding into existing and proposed bycatch mitigation measures which will help vessels avoid significant bycatch, improve the opportunity for stock recovery and reduce loss of earning through the potential for Spurdog being a choke species. The Shark Trust welcomes the pragmatic attitude of the skipper involved, and the wider engagement of the CFPO vessels in trials to develop real-time measures such as area avoidance which contribute to practical management proposals ahead of the roll-out of the demersal landings obligation.

Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust stated, “this has been an unprecedented incident, with a substantial take of Spurdog. Northeast Atlantic Spurdog are listed as Endangered with an extremely conservative life history strategy, maturing in their late teens and gestating for over 2 years, hence their current zero TAC status. Engagement of CFPO vessels in bycatch avoidance trials is intended to create a management plan which should mitigate against such events, providing the Spurdog with a chance to recover to more viable populations levels.”

The Trust further welcomes the collaborative efforts of government, scientists, industry and the Trust to ensure lessons are learnt from this incident contributing to bycatch mitigation and ensuring financial penalties on industry, due to the capture and retention of Zero TAC species, were minimised.

Fast Facts:

• Spurdog (Squalus acanthias) ID Guide and Fisheries Advisory.

• Spurdog: Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic; intrinsically vulnerable due to slow growth, late maturity, long gestation period ~22months). Population collapse led to need for strict management as recovery will be slow.

• Spurdog often aggregate by size and sex hence vulnerable to bycatch. The Trust is working with scientists and the fishing industry on bycatch avoidance & reduced mortality to accelerate species recovery.

• The recent Newlyn Spurdog bycatch was unprecedented. The catch was landed under scientific advice to contribute to population study/bycatch mitigation.

• Spurdog is a Zero TAC species meaning retention and landing is not allowed - Spurdog represent a potential choke species under discards ban, hence the need for a landings obligation exemption for high survival species.

• NB: a recent IUCN Red List assessment has reclassified Spurdog from Critically Endangered to Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic, this is a non-genuine change.