Dogfish, a voracious little shark that hunts in packs and fills its belly with anything it finds, now has so little value in the global marketplace that many fishermen who net them just throw them overboard.
And here’s the problem: Scientists say there are huge and growing numbers of dogfish in the Gulf of Maine competing for the same food as more commercially valuable species, such as cod and haddock.
“Their numbers are enormous,” said James Sulikowski, a biologist at the University of New England who has studied the species for years. “Dogfish have to eat. If they are strong and increasing in population, they will eat a lot of stuff. That stuff is what other species feed on as well.”
He said there are an estimated 230,000 metric tons of spawning dogfish – females of reproductive age – in the Gulf of Maine, compared with only 10,000 metric tons of spawning cod. That’s a 23-to-1 ratio.
Dogfish clog up fishing nets and damage gear, and fishermen are jabbed and poked by their teeth and pointy spines as they throw them back into the sea, said Rob Odlin, a Scarborough fisherman.
“We hate them with a passion,” he said. “We can’t sell them and they are everywhere.”