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Pacific spiny dogfish research

squalus suckleyi

Species profile

For more information on pacific spiny dogfish, please visit the pacific spiny dogfish page.

Spiny Dogfish
Drawing: Pacific Spiny Dogfish

Spiny dogfish (Squalus suckleyi) have historically been a shark species of great commercial importance for British Columbia. As early as 1870, spiny dogfish were fished commercially and spiny dogfish liver and body oil was used extensively for industrial lubricants and a source of Vitamin A. After the second world war, synthetic sources of Vitamin A replaced spiny dogfish products. Since 1975 spiny dogfish has been sought after as a source of food for European and Asian markets.

In the north Pacific, spiny dogfish are distributed from California to Alaska, along the Aleutian chain to the Asian coast and south to Japan. Commercial fisheries targeting spiny dogfish predominantly take place off the coast of British Columbia and Washington State. They are a slow growing fish which can live more than 80 years and attain sizes in excess of 130 cm in length. They also have an extraordinarily long gestation period of 22 months (longer than the gestation period of the Asiatic elephant!). Spiny dogfish are capable of impressive migration distances. An extensive tagging project by DFO undertaken from 1978 to 1988 found that spiny dogfish tagged off the west coast of Canada migrate as far as the coasts of Japan and Mexico (1).

In 2010, the Pacific population of spiny dogfish was recognized as a distinct species from the Atlantic population, and Squalus suckleyi was adopted as the new taxonomic name for Pacific spiny dogfish. Previously, Pacific spiny dogfish were considered the same species as Atlantic spiny dogfish, under the name Squalus acanthias. They are now recognized as distinct species due to significant morphological and genetic differences.

Current Research

Recent concern regarding the status of spiny dogfish worldwide has reprioritized the assessment of the status of spiny dogfish. A full assessment is planned for 2009.

DFO has conducted various types of spiny dogfish studies in efforts to gather knowledge to develop appropriate management plans for this species. Longline research surveys have been conducted for spiny dogfish in the Strait of Georgia in 1986, 1989, and 2005 (3) to assess distribution and abundance in the Strait of Georgia. Recent research has provided further validation of age determination methods (2).


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