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Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias)

Spiny Dogfish

Implementing regulations are found at 50 CFR part 648 subpart L

The spiny dogfish fishery in the Greater Atlantic Region operates from Maine to Florida and from inshore to offshore waters on the edge of the continental shelf. The spiny dogfish fishery uses predominantly bottom gillnets, with lesser amounts caught by trawls and hook gear. There is little consumer demand for spiny dogfish in the United States, but it is commonly used in Europe as the fish in ‘fish and chips’.


2018-2019 Dogfish Bulletins

Click Below for Past Bulletins (Permit Holder Letters):

2018-2019 Dogfish Federal Register Actions

Spiny Dogfish Fishery; 2019 and Projected 2020-2021 Specifications

 Click Below for Past Federal Register Actions & Public Comments:

2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

Current Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR)

What are other common names for spiny dogfish fishery?  Spurdog, mud shark, piked dogfish, cape shark, chip fish, chip shark.

What time of year are dogfish most commonly found?  The temporal pattern of dogfish landings are closely tied to the migration.  Peak landings from May through October coincide with residency of dogfish along the southern flank of Georges Bank, the Gulf of Maine, and near shore waters around Massachusetts.  As the population migrates south in late fall/early winter, landings increase in the southern states, especially North Carolina.  Dogfish landings have been reported in all months, but most traditionally occurred June through September.

What is the geographic extent of dogfish?  Spiny dogfish are most abundant from Nova Scotia to Cape Hatteras.  They move northward in the spring and summer and southward in the fall and winter, with a preferred temperature range from 7.2° C to 12.8° C.  In the winter and spring, spiny dogfish are located primarily in mid-Atlantic waters, but also extend onto southern Georges Bank on the shelf break.  In the summer, they are located further north in Canadian waters and move inshore into bays and estuaries.  By autumn, dogfish have migrated with high concentrations in Southern New England, on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine.

At what depths are dogfish found?  During the spring surveys from 1963-2003, juveniles were captured between depths of 11-500 meters, with the majority found below 50 meters, and adults were found from 1-500 meters.  During fall surveys over the same time period, the depth range for juveniles was from 11-400 meters, with most found below 40 meters, and the range for adults was from 11-400 meters.

Are other species caught when fishing for dogfish?  Primary discard species include groundfish, skate, herring, and scup.

What gear types are authorized and what gear types are primarily used?  For the commercial fishery, gillnet, trawl, hook and line, rod and reel, spear, dredge, and longline are all authorized gear; though gillnets, hook gear, and trawls are most commonly used.  For the recreational fishery, hook and line, rod and reel, and spear are authorized gear.

Who manages this fishery?  Spiny dogfish is jointly managed in state and Federal waters by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (lead), the New England Fishery Management Council, and NOAA fisheries in conjunction with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

How is the fishery managed?  Spiny dogfish is managed using a coastwide annual quota and possession limits.

What is the fishing year for this fishery?  May 1 – April 30

What are the different management areas for the spiny dogfish fishery?  NMFS manages spiny dogfish from Maine to North Carolina. For the most part, the fishery follows the NE multispecies fishery's regulations for Regulated Mesh Areas and Restricted Gear Areas (See the Commercial>Gear and Commercial>Areas Tabs for more information). There are also nine spiny dogfish exemption areas. See the Commercial>Exempted Fisheries tab for more detailed information on these exempted areas.

Late 1980s – Fishery develops rapidly as international markets opened due to a rapid decline in European dogfish stocks

1990 – Landings at more than 30 million pounds (13,608 metric tons), tripling the landings in 1989

1995-1999 – Landings average 50 million pounds (22,680 metric tons) annually

1998 – Spiny dogfish classified as overfished as a result of an increased directed fishery, due to the decline in abundance of traditional groundfish

2000Spiny Dogfish Fishery Management Plan implemented, establishing management of Atlantic spiny dogfish fisheries and initiating stock rebuilding

2006Framework 1 (Federal Register (FR) Notice) to dogfish plan implemented creating a mechanism for specification of multi-year management measures

2007 – Amendment 1 (FR Notice) standardized bycatch reporting methodology

2008 – Spiny dogfish estimated to be above the target biomass level

2009Framework 2 (FR Notice) built flexibility into process to define and update status determination criteria; NOAA Fisheries increases quota from 3 million to 12 million pounds and trip limit from 600 to 3,000 pounds for 2009 fishing year

2010 – Spiny dogfish are rebuilt; catch levels for the dogfish fishery increase from 12 million pounds to 15 million pounds in 2010

2011Amendment 2 (FR Notice) established annual catch limits and accountability measures; NOAA Fisheries increases catch levels for the dogfish fishery by 33% to 20 million pounds

2014Amendment 3 (FR Notice) established a new Research Set-Aside program and rollover of specifications from one year to the next, as well as eliminated the seasonal allocation of quota

2015 – Amendment 4 (FR Notice) implemented Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology

2017Amendment 5 (FR Notice) implemented management measures to prevent the development of new, and the expansion of existing, commercial fisheries on certain forage species in the Mid-Atlantic.

What are the primary markets for the spiny dogfish fishery?  Human consumption (exported to Europe), and fins (exported to Asia)

What are the recent landings and value of the fishery? 

Landings:  21.22 million lb (2015)

Ex-vessel landing value:  $4.26 million (2015)

Estimated average ex-vessel price per pound:  $0.20 (2015)

What are the top spiny dogfish landing ports?  Gloucester, MA, Chatham, MA, Hatteras, NC, and Virginia Beach/Lynnhaven, VA

FishWatch Spiny Dogfish Information – click here

Stock Spiny Dogfish
Overfishing? No
Overfishing Definition Overfishing occurs when F > FMSY
Overfished? No
Overfished Definition The stock is overfished when B < ½ BMSY
Rebuilding Program No, declared rebuilt in 2010
F/FMSY 0.2439
Fishing Mortality Rate 0.114 (2011)
B/BMSY or B/BMSY Proxy 351 million lb
Biomass 475 million lb (2012)

Other Stock Status Information:  Not Applicable 

Most Recent Environmental Impact Statement:  2011 (Amendment 2)

Most Recent Biological Opinion:  2013

Most Recent Stock Assessment:  2011

Next Stock Assessment:  Not scheduled

Quota Monitoring – click here

2019 Annual Spiny Dogfish Specifications (May 1-April 30)

Stock Spiny Dogfish
Overfishing Limit (OFL) 47.507 million lb
Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) 28.470 million lb
Annual Catch Limit (ACL) 28.362 million lb
Commercial Quota 20.523 million lb

Research Set-Aside:  0 lb

How often do the quotas change for this fishery?  Every year

What if specifications are not in place at the start of fishing year?  Existing specifications roll over 

Are there inseason adjustments (changes mid-fishing year) in this fishery?  Yes, if the coastwide spiny dogfish quota is fully harvested, then the spiny dogfish fishery will be closed.

Accountability Measures:  In the event that the ACL has been exceeded in a given fishing year, the exact amount in pounds by which the ACL was exceeded shall be deducted, as soon as possible, from a subsequent single fishing year ACL.

Other:  Not Applicable

Click Below for Past Quota Information:







Permit Categories

Permit Category Type Description Permits Issued in 2017 Number of Permits in Confirmation of Permit History*
Category 1 Commercial Vessel that fishes for, catches, possesses, transports, lands, sells, or trades spiny dogfish 2,259 Not Applicable

*A Confirmation of Permit History allows a vessel owner to retain permit eligibility in the event the vessel has been destroyed or sold but the owner retains the permit eligibility.  The permit in Confirmation of Permit History may then be placed on a vessel at a later date.

Control Date:  May 18, 1998

Other Permit Information:  Not Applicable

Commercial Operator Permit:  Operator cards are required for any operator of a charter/party boat or a commercial vessel (including carrier and processor vessels) issued a vessel permit from the Greater Atlantic Region and fishing for or in possession of fish.

Commercial Dealer/Processor Permit:  Spiny dogfish may be sold only to persons possessing a valid Federal spiny dogfish dealer permit. 

How to Obtain a Federal Fishing Permit:  Anyone with a valid vessel operator’s permit can obtain a Federal spiny dogfish permit by submitting a permit application and supporting documentation to the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office Permit Division. 

More information can be found here.

Federal Possession Limits and Fish Size Requirements

Possession Limits:  6,000 lb; only one trip may be made each calendar day

Fish Size Limits: None

*Note: Individual states may set more restrictive possession limits. Please check with your state’s fisheries agency.

Overlap with Northeast Multispecies Sectors

Any catch of allocated groundfish stocks by a northeast (NE) multispecies sector vessel while targeting spiny dogfish will count against its sector’s Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE), unless the vessel is fishing in an exempted fishery or with exempted gear outside of the days-at-sea program.  This means that unless the vessel is fishing in an exempted fishery or with exempted gear, the vessel’s sector must have ACE for all stocks in the area that the vessel fishes for spiny dogfish, and the vessel must also participate in its sector’s Dockside Monitoring Program and the NMFS At-Sea Monitoring Program on trips targeting dogfish.

Gear Requirements

A vessel fishing for, possessing, or landing spiny dogfish in Federal waters must have a Federal spiny dogfish permit and must comply with all applicable Federal gear and area requirements, including gear/area restrictions to protect right whales and other federally protected species. 

In general, unless exempted, spiny dogfish vessels fishing in Federal waters are subject NE multispecies groundfish regulations, regardless of whether or not they also have a NE multispecies permit.  Under these regulations, there are four regulated mesh areas (RMAs) that control the gear that can be used in each area (see map): Gulf of Maine (GOM); Georges Bank (GB); Southern New England (SNE); and Mid-Atlantic (MA).

Regulated Mesh Areas

Within these RMAs, vessels fishing with gillnets and trawl gear must abide by the minimum mesh sizes required by the NE multispecies regulations, as summarized in the table below.

Regulated Mesh Area Trawl codend mesh size requirements Gillnet mesh size requirements Gillnet net size requirements
Gulf of Main (GOM) 6.5-inch square or diamond 6.5 inches throughout the entire net Nets may not be longer than 300 ft / 91.4 m / 50 fathoms in length
Georges Bank (GB)
Southern New England (SNE)
Mid-Atlantic (MA) 6.5 inch square or diamond

Vessels holding a limited access NE multispecies permit, and not on a NE multispecies sector trip, must also comply with the NE multispecies Restricted Gear Areas (RGAs).  For more information on RGAs, see the 'Areas' tab.

Please also see ‘Exempted Fisheries’ tab for information on the gears allowed and involved with spiny dogfish fishery exemptions.

Gillnet Requirements for Protected Species

In addition to the gear requirements above, protected species requirements may also apply, depending on the season and area being fished. These additional requirements are to reduce incidental interactions between fishing gear and protected species, such as marine mammals and sea turtles. All vessels fishing with gillnets in Federal waters must comply with the applicable provisions of the:

For more information on protected species regulations, please see the 'Whales and More...' tab.

Regulated, Closed, and Access Areas

Vessels fishing for spiny dogfish in Federal waters must also comply with closed areas for NE multispecies and other fisheries, unless using gear defined as not capable of catching NE multispecies*.  These include seasonal and year-round closures, Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) closures, and transiting/gear storage requirements.

Please refer to the NE Multispecies webpage for more information regarding multispecies regulations.

Regulated Mesh Areas Coordinates - § 648.80

Restricted Gear Areas (Closed Areas) Coordinates - § 648.81

*Exempted gear includes the following:  pelagic hook and line, pelagic longline, spears, rakes, diving gear, cast nets, tong, harpoons, weirs, dipnets, stop nets, pound nets, pelagic gillnets, pots and traps, shrimp trawls (with properly configured grates), and surfclam/ocean quahog dredges.

See ‘Gear’ tab for information on regulated mesh areas.

See ‘Exempted Fisheries’ tab for information on spiny dogfish exemption areas.

Days-At-Sea (DAS) Requirements

In order to possess spiny dogfish in Federal waters you must have a Federal dogfish permit, and you must also be fishing under one of the following conditions:

  • A Northeast (NE) multispecies trip (including DAS, B DAS, non-DAS sector, Handgear A and B);
  • A scallop DAS;
  • A monkfish-only DAS (if fishing in a monkfish exemption area as defined in the large mesh information sheet); or
  • An exempted fishery (see ‘Exempted Fisheries’ tab).

Any catch of allocated groundfish stocks by a NE multispecies sector vessel while targeting spiny dogfish will count against its sector’s annual catch entitlement (ACE), unless the vessel is fishing in an exempted fishery or with exempted gear outside of the DAS program.

Exempted Fisheries

What is an Exempted Fishery?

Exempted fisheries allow fishing vessels to fish for specific species without being subject to certain northeast (NE) multispecies regulations, including days-at-sea, provided the bycatch of regulated species is minimal. To be approved and implemented, exemption programs must have demonstrated that incidental catch of NE multispecies is less than 5 percent of the total catch, by weight, and that the exemption will not jeopardize fishing mortality objectives.

How to Request Fishery Exemptions

An exempted fishery may be added, deleted, or modified pursuant to the procedure described below:

  1. Applicants must submit a written request to the Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930-2298. The request should describe the area in which the fishery would operate, the period in which it would operate, the gear it would use, the approximate number of vessels likely to participate, and the species it would target, retain, and land.
  2. Those proposing that a fishery should be exempt should describe the fishery and present all information possible that helps determine that the fishery meets the bycatch standard. The Regional Administrator will investigate NMFS data sources, but proposals for exemptions should be complete and clear to facilitate the process. State agencies and universities, for example, may have additional data available and applicants may contact them for assistance.
  3. When a request for an exempted fishery is submitted, the request and any accompanying data are reviewed by the Regional Administrator to determine whether such a fishery would meet the exemption qualifying criteria. The Regional Administrator will also consult with the New England Fishery Management Council on any exemptions requested. This process may take several months to complete.

Spiny Dogfish Fishery Exemptions

Within the Gulf of Maine (GOM) and Georges Bank (GB) Regulated Mesh Areas (RMAs) there are six exempted fishing areas that are summarized in the table below.  More specific details for each area can be found on the linked pages within the table.  A Letter of Authorization (LOA) is required to participate in some of these exempted fishing areas.  LOAs can be obtained from our Permits Office at (978) 282-8438 or here.

Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank Spiny Dogfish Exemption Areas

Area Name Season Gear Allowed LOA Required?
Nantucket Shoals Dogfish Exemption Area June 1 - October 15 Trawl, Gillnet Yes
Cultivator Shoals Whiting Fishery Exemption Area June 15 - October 31 Trawl Yes
Small Mesh Areas 1 & 2 SMA 1: July 15 - November 15
SMA 2: January 1 - June 30
Trawl No
Raised Footrope Trawl Whiting Fishery Areas September 1 - November 20 / December 31 Trawl Yes
GOM/GB Dogfish Gillnet Exemption Area July 1 - August 31 Gillnet No
Cape Cod Spiny Dogfish Exemption Areas June 1 - August 31 / December 31 Gillnet, Longline, Handgear No

There are two exempted fishing areas in the Southern New England (SNE) RMA and one exempted fishing area in the Mid-Atlantic (MA) RMA that are summarized in the table below.  More specific details for each area can be found on the linked pages within the table.

Southern New England and Mid-Atlantic Spiny Dogfish Exemption Areas

Area Name Season Gear Allowed LOA Required?
SNE Exemption Area (includes part of the GB RMA) Year Round Trawl No
SNE Dogfish Gillnet Exemption Area May 1 - October 31 Gillnet No
MA Exemption Area (includes part of the SNE RMA) Year Round Trawl, Gillnet No

All vessels fishing for spiny dogfish in Federal waters must also comply with closed areas for other fisheries, including NE multispecies, unless they are fishing with gear that has been deemed 'exempt' and unable to catch those controlled species.

Exempted gear that has been defined as not capable of catching NE multispecies includes the following: Pelagic hook and line, pelagic longline, spears, rakes, diving gear, cast nets, tong, harpoons, weirs, dipnets, stop nets, pound nets, pelagic gillnets, pots and traps, shrimp trawls (with properly configured grates), and surfclam/ocean quahog dredges.

Protected Resource and Marine Mammal Regulations

It is illegal to harvest or possess protected species unless otherwise specified under the regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act or Marine Mammal Protection Act.  Please see links below for more information or contact NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office Protected Resources Division at (978) 281-9328.

Protected Fish Species

Marine Mammals

  • Reporting injured or dead marine mammal caught in fishing gear

Sea Turtles


Marine Mammals

Sea Turtles  


Marine Mammals

Sea Turtles

There are currently no recreational size or possession restrictions for dogfish caught in Federal waters.  Seasons, limits, and general information on all recreational fisheries in our region can be found here.

Recreational anglers will need to get a general recreational fishing license either through your state or through NMFS to fish recreationally for marine species.  More information can be found here.

Commercial Reporting

Catch Reporting and Vessel Trip Reports (VTR): The owner or operator of any vessel issued a Federal commercial fishing permit shall maintain on board the vessel and submit an accurate Federal fishing VTR for all fishing trips (regardless of species retained). Reports can also be submitted electronically here.

For vessels not holding a limited access northeast (NE) multispecies permit, VTRs must be received by NMFS or postmarked within 15 days after the end of the reporting month. For NE multispecies limited access permit holders, VTRs must be submitted weekly and received by NMFS or postmarked by midnight of the Tuesday following the reporting week.  Copies of VTRs must be retained on board the vessel for 1 year after the date of the last entry on the log.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System Requirements: The spiny dogfish fishery does not have any IVR requirements.

Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) Requirements: Unless fishing on a NE multispecies sector trip, a vessel holding a Federal fishing permit that requires an operating VMS must declare ‘out of fishery’ (DOF) through their VMS before starting a trip to fish for, possess, or land spiny dogfish in an exempted area or fishery not requiring a DAS.

Observer Requirements: The spiny dogfish fishery does not have any specific observer requirements, but must abide by NE multispecies, scallop, or monkfish regulations if fishing on a DAS for one of those fisheries. Additionally, all federally permitted vessels are obligated to carry an observer if randomly selected by the National Observer Program.

Charter/Party and Recreational Reporting

Reporting is not required for the recreational dogfish fishery, but the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) is a system of voluntary coordinated data collection programs designed to estimate recreational catch and effort.