The current prohibition on landing spurdog (picked dogfish) in all EU waters is due to the current condition of the stock. The stock was subject to high harvest rates for more than four decades, and fisheries were not managed during this time. While spurdog is showing some signs of recovery from the historical lows of the mid 2000s, the period is very short in comparison to the longer-term historical decline.
The spawning biomass of this species is at an extremely low level, although conservation measures in recent years have had an impact in terms of stabilising the decline. The species is a long-lived, slow growing and late maturing species and is, therefore, particularly vulnerable to over-fishing. The scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) is that there should be no targeted fisheries in 2019 and 2020 and that any possible provision for landing of by-catch should only happen as part of a management plan, including close monitoring of the stock and fisheries. The Marine Institute fully supports the ICES advice and has very serious concerns about the state of the stock.
A very limited quota is available (53t for Ireland) for use only in pilot schemes designed to reduce such by-catches. Any such schemes are subject to EU Commission approval and must relate to reducing by-catches of spurdog in other fisheries i.e. the targeting of spurdog would remain prohibited. Such a scheme for spurdog avoidance was explored by the Marine Institute and, following consultation with industry, a draft pilot scheme was submitted for review to the Commission’s Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF).
STECF raised a number of queries about the proposed scheme, in particular on whether or not it would result in a reduction in catches of spurdog relative to the catches that would occur in the absence of a scheme. Having considered the STECF comments and concerns, the Marine Institute reviewed the draft scheme and has now advised that Ireland should not proceed further with the spurdog avoidance scheme but rather work collaboratively with other Member States and the Commission to explore possible management measures going forward.