With such a slow reproductive rate, unregulated commercial fishing could have a serious impact on the species in a short time, as was seen with the spurdog fisheries in the 1980s. Spurdogs were once the most abundant shark species in the Northeast Atlantic however they have been all but wiped out by commercial fisheries and are now listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Redlist.
Starry smooth-hounds are not a valuable commercial species in Ireland but on the continent they are highly sought after and the landings from French boats, currently about 2640 tonnes annually, are increasing. The previous lack of knowledge of their basic life history in the Northeast Atlantic has prevented the development of management and conservation strategies.
Once abundant in the Mediterranean Sea and Southern European waters, years of over fishing have caused their disappearance from much of their former range. In Irish waters though, starry smooth-hounds seem to be increasing in abundance. The reasons for this are unclear but it does offer the unique opportunity to help conserve this enigmatic species.
These findings of the project indicate that starry smooth-hounds are more susceptible to exploitation than previously thought and management measures are needed now to ensure their conservation.
"There are currently no management measures for this species in European waters mainly due to the lack of biological information," says Farrell. "So our main aim was to gather the necessary data. Hopefully this can be used now to ensure their sustainability and prevent a repeat of the overexploitation seen in Mediterranean waters."
Stefano Mariani believes that it is paramount to protect these sharks in Irish waters. "Smooth-hounds have a very specialized diet: they don't eat fish, they feed on bottom-dwelling shellfish, crunching crabs with th
|Contact: Ben Norman|