By Kyle Empringham, Public Engagement Specialist
Poor dogfish! They've been labelled "trash fish" because west coast commercial fisheries typically discard them. But should we be tossing them — or eating them?
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This year, B.C. fisheries have a combined quota of 23 million pounds of spiny dogfish (PDF) (often referred to as "rock salmon" in the UK), but less than one per cent of that has been brought to market, mostly because of low demand.
Spiny dogfish are small, schooling sharks that congregate in groups of hundreds or thousands in Pacific coastal waters. Adults can grow to between 75 and 105 centimetres long and be found as deep as 730 metres. The groundfish fisheries' dogfish catch is fully monitored at sea. Although inherently vulnerable to fishing pressure, dogfish are well-managed to allow for a controlled catch.
In other words, dogfish are easily caught in large numbers in Canadian waters and we're not eating them — but we could be. They're common in European markets, used for fish and chips in England and Schillerlocken (cured, hot-smoked belly flaps) in Germany.
While dogfish are hard to prepare because they're difficult to grill, chefs have created many delicious dishes, including osso buco, mousse and chicarron. Chef Dan Hayes says, "It stays very moist... it's an excellent fish."
Up to last year, B.C.'s spiny dogfish were MSC-certified, providing a traceable, sustainable alternative for shark fin soup. But the fishery opted to suspend their certification, due to poor market conditions.
You have to look hard if you want to sample dogfish. Few Canadian restaurants carry them and fisheries have cut back. Ask your favourite seafood restaurant to explore this option that's right in our backyard. Let's support fisheries that are working to be sustainable.