Sharks play an essential rol in the health of our oceans

Spiny dogfish

Squalus Acanthias

The spiny dogfish is a member of the of  dogfishes (Squalidae) and the bramble, sleeper and dogfish sharks (Squaliformes).



The spiny dogfish lives in both sea and brackish waters. This sharks prefers temperate climates en is widely distributed in the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean. The spiny dogfish is also often observed in the Mediterranean and North Sea.

Its characteristic spines on the frontal dorsal fin are used for defense.

This small shark often preys on free-swimming fish (like capelin), but also feeds on crustaceans and squid. The spiny dogfish is a ‘school shark’:  shoals of thousands individuals have been observed. This shark is abundant in the North Sea and along our shores, especially in spring and autumn. Tagging research has shown, that spiny dogfish in the northern North Sea and northwest Scotland made winter migrations to off Norway and summer migrations to Scotland.

The spiny dogfish is ovoviviparous, the eggs develop in the mother’s body. The unborn young feed on the egg yolk. The gestation is 18 to 24 month, one of the longest within the class of sharks and rays. Litter consists of 4 to 8 pups.

A young spiny dogfish with the yolk sac still attached


  • Maximum length: 160 cm
  • Maximum weight: 9,1 kg
  • Age: maximum 75 years
  • Habitat: 0 tot 1460 meter depth
  • Catches: commercial fisheries by boats from Norway, Netherlands and Belgium. Also a gamefish. In . In 2009 the Total Allowable Catches were restricted to 1400 tons.  The European Community brought the TAC down to 0 in 2010. Like most shark species, the spiny dogfish is very vulnerable to overfishing.
  • In August 2012, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified as “sustainable” six Northeast U.S. longline, gillnet, and trawl fisheries for spiny dogfish.  There has been some recovery  in the Northwest Atlantic spiny dogfish population, but the ‘sustainable status’ is considered prematire by many.




Distribution of the spiny dogfish





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