Mustelus asterias 

Scope: Mediterranean
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Chondrichthyes Carcharhiniformes Triakidae

Scientific Name: Mustelus asterias Cloquet, 1819
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Starry Smoothhound
Taxonomic Source(s): Eschmeyer, W.N. (ed.). 2015. Catalog of Fishes. Updated 6 April 2015. Available at: http://researcharchive.calacademy.org/research/ichthyology/catalog/fishcatmain.asp. (Accessed: 6 April 2015).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bd (Regional assessment) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-03-25
Assessor(s): Farrell, E.D., McCully, S., Dulvy, N.K., Mancusi, C. & Ellis, J.R.
Reviewer(s): Walls, R.H.L. & Allen, D.J.
Contributor(s): Fordham, S. & Walls, R.H.L.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Walls, R.H.L.

Mediterranean regional assessment: Vulnerable (VU)

The Starry Smoothhound (Mustelus asterias) is widespread on the continental shelf to depths of ~200 m. The species is susceptible to capture in demersal trawl, gillnet, trammel net, and line gear. In the Mediterranean Sea, smoothhounds (Mustelus spp.) are valued for human consumption and are often retained and marketed. No reliable species-specific fisheries catch data are available from the region because landings data often refer to all smoothhounds combined, or even smoothhounds combined with Tope (Galeorhinus galeus) or spurdogs (Squalus spp.). The Mediterranean Sea is considered a separate subpopulation from the Atlantic based on differences in reproductive biology, which limits potential for external recruitment in the event of population depletion.

Abundance trends in fishery independent trawl survey data show that the Mediterranean subpopulation has been declining in both the Gulf of Lions and the Adriatic Sea over the past 50 years. Landings of all smoothhounds in the Mediterranean Sea declined by ~85% between 1994 and 2006. No information is currently available on subpopulation trends in the southern Mediterranean Sea, although the Starry Smoothhound is also caught and landed there in relatively intensive coastal fisheries. It is suspected to have undergone a decline of around 30% over a three-generation period (39 years), and is hence assessed as Vulnerable under Criterion A2bd. It should however be noted that the situation in the Mediterranean Sea may be worse than estimated given the grouping of smoothhounds in landings data and consequent masking of species-specific population trajectories.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Starry Smoothhound is found throughout the coastal and continental shelf waters of the Mediterranean Sea (Ebert and Stehmann 2013), from the surface to 200 m depth. Outside the Mediterranean, the range extends to the Northeast Atlantic to Scottish and southern Norwegian waters.
Countries occurrence:
Albania; Algeria; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Croatia; Cyprus; Egypt (Egypt (African part), Sinai); France (Corsica, France (mainland)); Greece (East Aegean Is., Greece (mainland), Kriti); Israel; Italy (Italy (mainland), Sardegna, Sicilia); Lebanon; Libya; Montenegro; Morocco; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Slovenia; Spain (Baleares, Spain (mainland), Spanish North African Territories); Syrian Arab Republic; Tunisia; Turkey (Turkey-in-Asia, Turkey-in-Europe)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Mediterranean and Black Sea
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):200
Range Map:39357-3

Population [top]


The Starry Smoothhound is less common than the Common Smoothhound (Mustelus mustelus) in the Mediterranean Sea, although the potential for misidentification should be noted. In the northern Mediterranean Sea, the International Bottom Trawl Survey in the Mediterranean (MEDITS) showed a very low frequency of occurrence, with this smoothhound recorded in only five of 6,336 hauls conducted from 1994–99 at 10–800 m depth (Baino et al. 2001). Catch of this species also decreased in trawl surveys conducted in 1948 and 1998 in the Adriatic Sea (Jukic-Peladic et al. 2001). Aldebert (1997) reported a clear decrease in abundance of smoothhounds (Mustelus spp.) in comparable surveys in the Gulf of Lions, southern France, from 1970–95. In Hvar trawl surveys conducted in 1948 in the Adriatic Sea, occurrence of the Starry Smoothhound was about 1.0 (frequency log-transformed), compared to about 0.1 in comparable MEDITS surveys conducted in the same area in 1998, which shows a decline of 90% from 1948–98. A decline of ~70% is inferred for the three generation period of 39 years (1959–98). Most recently, between 2006 and 2008, Fortuna et al. (2011) examined trawl fisheries in the Adriatic Sea, and found that this species was rarely caught as bycatch, with a catch rate of 0.0048 individuals per haul.

Catch data should be examined with caution as the catches reported as smoothhounds often consist of an aggregation of small-sized demersal sharks. Data reported to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) show that smoothhound landings steadily increased between 1950 and 1978 to 14,000 tonnes (t), after which they fluctuated between about 6,500 and 14,000 t from 1978–94 (FAO 2008). After 1994, landings dropped significantly to 2,980 t in 1997 and did not exceed 2,200 t from 2001–06 (FAO 2008). It is likely that this species has never been very abundant in the Mediterranean Sea. However, the available information on landings (although not species-specific) combined with the more detailed information derived from fishery-independent trawl surveys, suggest that this particular species has declined in abundance in the Mediterranean Sea. In some cases, as in the northern Tyrrhenian Sea, the Starry Smoothhound can be considered locally extinct due to overfishing (Ferretti et al. 2005, 2013).

The Mediterranean Sea is considered a separate subpopulation from the Atlantic based on differences in reproductive biology, which limits potential for external recruitment in the event of population depletion. Considering the outlined declines throughout the Mediterranean Sea, the species is inferred to have undergone a decline of at least 30% over three generations (around 39 years) throughout its Mediterranean range.

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

This demersal smoothhound is found at a maximum depth of about 200 m, over sandy and gravelly substrates (Ellis et al. 2005a).

Ovarian fecundity ranges from 10–45 oocytes and uterine fecundity from 10–35 embryos in the Mediterranean Sea. Females reportedly have an annual reproductive cycle in the region, and sexual maturity is attained at ~75 cm total length (TL) in males and about 96 cm TL in females (Capapé 1983). There are no published age or growth studies specific to the Mediterranean region for this species, although this information can be inferred from the Atlantic data available. In the Northeast Atlantic, size at birth ranges from 30–38.1 cm TL (Compagno et al. 2005, Farrell et al. 2010a). Gestation period is ~12 months, followed by a resting period of ~12 months, resulting in a biennial reproductive cycle. Length and age at 50% maturity estimates for males and females in the Northeast Atlantic are 78 cm TL and four to five years, and 87 cm TL and six years, respectively (Ferrell et al. 2010b). Using sectioned vertebrate, maximum length and longevity estimates were 103.7 cm TL and 20.2 years in females and 123.5 cm TL and 11.8 years in males (Farrell et al. 2010a). The generation length is therefore estimated to be ~13 years.

Generation Length (years):13
Movement patterns:Unknown

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The Starry Smoothhound is commercially valuable in the Mediterranean Sea, where it is used fresh, frozen, or salted-dried for human consumption. It is regularly present in the Adriatic, Tyrrhenian, Tunisian, and Turkish markets; and sold fresh, frozen, refrigerated, or salted-dried (Fischer et al. 1987).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There is a high level of exploitation on the continental shelf and upper slope to about 800 m depth in the Mediterranean Sea (Massutí and Moranta 2003, Ferretti et al. 2005). Smoothhounds are captured by demersal trawls, trammel nets, gillnets, and longlines in this region (Bauchot 1987). Semi-industrial fisheries in the Adriatic Sea, off Sicily, Spain, and Cyprus are known to take these species, as well as artisanal fisheries elsewhere.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

There is currently no restriction on catch, and no species-specific measures in place in the Mediterranean Sea. Species-specific management measures are necessary to prevent further declines in this region, including improved data collection to species level for commercial landings. 

The Starry Smoothhound is listed in Appendix III of the Barcelona Convention, which suggests it should be afforded regulations regarding exploitation in the Mediterranean Sea (Recommendation GFCM/36/2012/1). The listing directs the recording and reporting to national authorities of all encounters with the species (including catch, bycatch, discard) and encourages improved data collection and scientific monitoring. However, compliance with this directive has been poor, and thus Mediterranean data on this species remains seriously lacking. The Balearic Island Marine Reserves offer minimal protection to smoothhounds, as they are protected within the waters of the reserve.

Further research should be conducted on the population size and trend of the species.

Citation: Farrell, E.D., McCully, S., Dulvy, N.K., Mancusi, C. & Ellis, J.R. 2016. Mustelus asterias. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T39357A16527992. . Downloaded on 23 September 2017.
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