Scyliorhinus canicula 

Scope: Europe
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Chondrichthyes Carcharhiniformes Scyliorhinidae

Scientific Name: Scyliorhinus canicula (Linnaeus, 1758)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Small Spotted Catshark, Lesser Spotted Dogfish
French Petite Roussette
Spanish Pintarroja
Squalus canicula Linnaeus, 1758
Taxonomic Notes: May be some confusion with the larger and less common Scyliorhinus stellaris, which occurs within a similar range.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern (Regional assessment) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-09-17
Assessor(s): Serena, F., Ellis, J., Abella, A., Mancusi, C., Haka, F., Guallart, J., Ungaro, N., Coelho, R.P., Schembri, T. & Kirsteen, M.
Reviewer(s): Farrell, E.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Lawson, J., Walls, R. & Dulvy, N.
European regional assessment: Least Concern (LC)
Small Spotted Catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula) is a small, common catshark, widespread in the eastern Atlantic, from Norway and the Shetland Islands to Senegal (possibly along the Ivory Coast), and throughout the Mediterranean and Black Seas. This is one of the most abundant elasmobranchs in the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. Although localized depletions appear to have occurred in some areas (e.g., in the Wadden Sea and off Malta), scientific surveys throughout the majority of its range suggest that the population is stable or even increasing in some areas. Though commercial landings are reported and larger individuals are retained for human consumption, the species is often discarded and studies show that discard survival rates are high. Additionally, it appears to have life history characteristics that may allow it to withstand current levels of exploitation. The species is assessed as Least Concern because survey catch rates are either stable or increasing throughout the majority of its range in both the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. Catches and population trends should continue to be monitored.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This catshark is widespread in the Northeast and Eastern Central Atlantic. In the northern extent of its range, it can be found in the waters surrounding the Shetland Islands and Norway. Its range extends southwards towards West Africa. It is also found throughout the Mediterranean and Black Seas (Compagno et al. 2005, Serena 2005).
Countries occurrence:
Albania; Algeria; Belgium; Cyprus; Denmark; Egypt (Egypt (African part), Sinai); Estonia; Finland; France (Corsica, France (mainland)); Georgia (Abkhaziya, Adzhariya, Gruziya); Germany; Greece (Greece (mainland), Kriti); Ireland; Israel; Italy (Italy (mainland), Sardegna, Sicilia); Lebanon; Libya; Montenegro; Morocco; Netherlands; Norway; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Portugal (Azores, Portugal (mainland)); Russian Federation (European Russia, Krasnodar); Spain (Spain (mainland)); Sweden; Syrian Arab Republic; Tunisia; Turkey (Turkey-in-Asia, Turkey-in-Europe); Ukraine (Krym, Ukraine (main part)); United Kingdom (Great Britain, Northern Ireland)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – northeast; Atlantic – eastern central; Mediterranean and Black Sea
Additional data:
Range Map:161399-1

Population [top]


This species is one of the most abundant elasmobranchs in the Northeast Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. In the Northeast Atlantic, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) recognizes multiple subpopulations because of perceived limited movements and migrations, in accordance with recommendations put forward by the Development of Elasmobranch Assessments project (DELASS; Heessen 2003). Survey trends in most shelf areas are either stable or increasing, including surveys from the North Sea, northwest Scotland, Irish Sea, English Channel, Celtic Sea and Cantabrian Sea (MacKenzie 2004, ICES 2013). This species is reportedly locally extinct from the Wadden Sea, between the Netherlands and Germany (Wolff 2000a,b), an area that is at the edge of its range. This local extinction is therefore not considered to have had a significant effect on the remainder of the Northeast Atlantic population.

In the Mediterranean Sea, data from the International Trawl Survey in the Mediterranean recorded this species across a wide bathymetric range and in high abundance, particularly in the Gulf of Lions and the Catalan and Aegean Seas (Baino et al. 2001). Juveniles accounted for 78% of the entire sampled population, and maximum biomass indices were reported off northeast Corsica between 50 and 100 m depth (340 kg per km2; Baino et al. 2001). Abundance may also vary with depth, as standardized scientific surveys from the Aegean Sea between 1994 and 2008 showed that density was higher at depths ranging from 200−400 m in certain regions. Also in the Aegean Sea, abundance rates were relatively low from 2001−2004 and have successively increased, reaching a maximum in 2008 (Maravelias et al. 2012). In the Adriatic Sea two comparable trawl surveys from 1948 and 1998 showed no significant difference in range and abundance (Jukic-Peladic et al. 2001), although there is evidence of increasing trawl fishing pressure in this region. Survey data from the Northeast Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea estimate that this population is increasing in European waters.

Current Population Trend:Increasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

This is a small, temperate, bottom-dwelling catshark found from the shallow sub-littoral to the edge of the continental shelf. It is found at depths of at least 300 m in the north (Ellis et al. 2005a), and occurs in deeper waters further south and in the Mediterranean Sea. In the Northeast Atlantic this species is more common in waters < 150 m deep. It is widespread and abundant on a variety of substrates (sandy, coralline algal, gravelly or muddy bottoms). It is known to aggregate by sex and size, though it is unclear whether this sexual segregation is behavioural or habitat-linked. Within sea loughs, females exhibit strong philopatric behaviour to refuging sites, while males are wider ranging and less philopatric (Sims 2003).

This is an egg laying species that deposits eggcases on macroalgae or sessile invertebrates in shallow coastal waters (Wheeler 1978, Compagno 1984, Capapé et al. 1991, Ellis and Shackley 1997, Rodriguez-Cabello et al. 2005). Captive studies have generated estimates of fecundity of 29−62 eggs per year for Northeast Atlantic populations (Ellis and Shackley 1997), and 45−190 eggs per year for Mediterranean Sea populations (Capapé 1977, Capapé et al. 1991) and fecundity has been shown to increase with maternal size (Capapé 1977, Ellis and Shackley 1997, Henderson and Casey 2001). Annual fecundity estimation based on production of both egg cases and oocytes in Aegean Sea specimens was higher, between 40 and 240 per year (Koustenia et al. 2010, Lupi 2008). Spawning can take place almost year round (Capapé 1977, Capapé et al. 1991, Ellis and Shackley 1997). Gestation period is eight to nine months on average, but can range from five to 11 months, and is reportedly shorter (five to six months) in the Northeast Atlantic (Ellis and Shackley 1997).

Size at birth is 7−11 cm total length (TL) (Ellis and Shackley 1997). Size at maturity reportedly ranges from 35−47 cm TL for females and 30−44 cm TL for males (Capapé 1977, 2000, Jardas 1979, Ungaro et al. 2002, Lupi 2008, Koustenia et al. 2010, Taleb Bendiab et al. 2012). In the Northeast Atlantic, Ellis and Shackley (1997) reported larger sizes at maturity, with females reportedly reaching maturity from 52−65 cm TL, and males from 49−55 cm TL. This supports the hypothesis of geographic variation in reproductive characteristics, which can probably be attributed to various environmental and geographic parameters (Leloup and Olivereau 1951, Capapé et al. 1991). Maximum sizes are reported to range between 80 cm TL (Ellis et al. 2005b, Relini et al. 1999) and 100 cm TL (Compagno et al. 2005). The species generally appears to reach a larger maximum length in the Northeast Atlantic than in the Mediterranean Sea (Compagno et al. 2005).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species may be landed for human consumption both in the Northeast Atlantic and in the Mediterranean.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

In the Northeast Atlantic, this catshark is taken as a bycatch in demersal trawl and gill net fisheries, yet it has high survivorship when discarded from trawl fisheries. A discard survival rate of 98% was reported from a western English Channel trawl fishery (Revill et al. 2005), a survival rate of 90% when discarded by commercial trawlers in the southern Bay of Biscay (Rodriguez-Cabello et al. 2005) and a survival rate of almost 100% in Mediterranean Sea otter trawl fisheries (Sanchez et al. 2000). However, in some areas larger specimens may be landed for human consumption or they may be landed as bait for whelk fisheries. Portuguese landings in the Algarve reported average annual landings of 115 tonnes from 1988−1990, compared to average annual landings of ~ 155 tonnes from 1999−2001 suggesting that reported landings have increased by 34.5% over the last decade. This increase in landings could mean that there has been a large reduction in discards or that reporting has improved. Although these landings data are grouped under the genus Scyliorhinus, bottom longline and trammel net surveys off the Algarve only reported catching this species (Erzini et al. 1999, 2001) therefore the huge majority of catshark landings from the Algarve are considered to be this species.

In the Mediterranean Sea this catshark is a bycatch in various demersal fisheries and is retained for human consumption in some areas. It is a commercially valuable species in Italy and only individuals smaller than 36 cm TL are discarded (Abella and Serena 2005). Additionally, a semi-industrial fishery for this species operates in Spain, the Adriatic Sea, Sicily and Cyprus. It is regularly found in fish markets in countries around the Adriatic Sea, Greece and Malta, where it is sold under the generic name of Mazzola. Landings data from Malta indicate that catches fell from 1985−1995, but this might not indicate population decline. Although demersal fishing pressure is intense in many parts of the species range in the Mediterranean Sea, and local depletions may have occurred in some areas, this species has high survivorship following discard. 

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

There are no species-specific conservation measures in place in European waters. Research should be conducted on the harvest trends of this species.

Citation: Serena, F., Ellis, J., Abella, A., Mancusi, C., Haka, F., Guallart, J., Ungaro, N., Coelho, R.P., Schembri, T. & Kirsteen, M. 2015. Scyliorhinus canicula. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T161399A48916046. . Downloaded on 16 August 2018.
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