Spurdog, Squalus acanthias
Ink and pencil on paper
Artist: Lauren B
The spurdog (or spiny dogfish) is a typical small bottom-dwelling shark and is thought to be the most abundant living shark due to its worldwide distribution in shallow (usually <200 metres) temperate seas.
They have spines in front of the dorsal fins (hence name ‘spur’ dog), which are defensive and their toxin can cause painful, often septic, wounds if incorrectly handled. Spurdog are long-lived (up to 70 years) and do not reproduce until they are about 20 years old and there may be several years between subsequent breeding.
Spurdog are used commercially in a number of different ways. the spurdog is sometime sold under generic names such as rock salmon, huss and flake in fish and chip shops and fishmongers to disguise the fact that an endangered species is being sold. Spurdog fins are also exported to Asia to be used in cheap versions of shark-fin soup.
Spurdog are long-lived, slow growing and have a high age at maturity. These characteristics make them particularly vulnerable to high levels of fishing mortality. The Northeast Atlantic stock is considered to be depleted. The European population of the species is assessed as Endangered by IUCN and has been recently added to the OSPAR list of threatened and/or declining species and habitats.