Mustelus asterias 

Scope: Global
Language: English

Translate page into:

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: (Accessed: 6 April 2015).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2009
Date Assessed: 2006-02-11
Needs updating
Assessor(s): Serena, F., Mancusi, C. & Ellis, J.
Reviewer(s): Valenti, S.V. & Fowler, S.L. (Shark Red List Authority)
This coastal species is widespread, although not abundant, from Northern Europe to Northwest Africa, including the Mediterranean, on the continental shelf to 200 m depth. Mustelus asterias is more common than M. mustelus in the Northeast Atlantic and less common in the Mediterranean Sea. The species is vulnerable to capture in trawl, gillnet, trammel net and line gear. In the Mediterranean Sea Mustelus species are valued for human consumption and are often retained and marketed, whereas in northern parts of the Northeast Atlantic they have little market value and are often discarded. No species-specific fisheries catch data are available for M. asterias because landings data often refer to all Mustelus species combined, or even Mustelus species and Squalus species combined. Abundance trends in fishery independent surveys available from northwestern European seas in the Northeast Atlantic appear stable at the present time. The species is assessed as Least Concern in this region, but species-specific monitoring of trends is essential. In the Mediterranean Sea, species-specific fishery-independent trawl survey data show declining trends in M. asterias in the Gulf of Lions and Adriatic Sea during the last 50 years. Landings of all Mustelus species (M. mustelus, M. asterias and M. punctulatus) in the Mediterranean Sea declined by ~85% between 1994 and 2006. The species is considered to meet the criteria for at least Vulnerable in the Mediterranean Sea based on past declines in three generations (possibly ~50 years) and may prove to meet the criteria for a higher category in this region in the future. No specific information is currently available on trends in this species from the southern Mediterranean Sea and northwestern coasts of Africa, although M. asterias is also known to be caught and landed there in relatively intensive coastal fisheries. Given that M. asterias is more abundant in the north of its range, where the population appears to be stable, the species is assessed as Least Concern globally. However, population trends and catch levels must be carefully monitored and this assessment may need to be revisited in the near term.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Starry Smoothhound is distributed from the Shetland Islands and southern Norway in the Northeast Atlantic, south, including the Mediterranean to northwestern Africa in the Eastern Central Atlantic (Compagno et al. 2005).

Northeast Atlantic: from Scotland and southern Norway in the North to North-west Africa in the south, occurring in the waters of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain and Portugal.

Whole Mediterranean Sea, but not in the Black Sea (Notarbartolo and Bianchi 1998).

Eastern Central Atlantic: Morocco, Western Sahara.
Countries occurrence:
Albania; Algeria; Belgium; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Croatia; Denmark; Egypt; France; Germany; Greece; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Lebanon; Libya; Montenegro; Morocco; Netherlands; Norway; Portugal; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden; Syrian Arab Republic; Tunisia; United Kingdom; Western Sahara
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – northeast; Atlantic – eastern central; Mediterranean and Black Sea
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):200
Upper depth limit (metres):1
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Northeast Atlantic
Mustelus asterias is more common than M. mustelus in the Northeast Atlantic. Within UK waters, it seems to be most abundant in large bays, outer parts of large estuaries and in coastal areas, including the Outer Thames, Solent, Bristol Channel and Cardigan Bay (Ellis et al. 2005a). Fishery-independent surveys suggest stable trends in catch per unit effort (Ellis et al. 2005b), though the numbers caught are generally quite low in these surveys. Though it has a continuous distribution, there are certain areas where it is locally abundant, including potential nursery grounds in outer estuaries and large bays.

Mediterranean Sea
Mustelus asterias is less common than M. mustelus in the Mediterranean Sea. Frequency of occurrence in scientific surveys (MEDITS) of the northern Mediterranean Sea was very low, with M. asterias recorded in only five of 6,446 hauls conducted from 1994-1999 at 10-800 m depth (Baino et al. 2001). Aldebert (1997) reports a clear decrease in abundance of Mustelus species in comparable surveys in the Gulf of Lions, southern France, from 1970 onwards. The occurrence of M. asterias also decreased in comparable trawl surveys conducted in 1948 and 1998 in the Adriatic Sea (Jukic-Peladic et al. 2001). In Hvar trawl surveys conducted in 1948 in the Adriatic Sea occurrence (frequency log-transformed) of M. asterias was ~1.0, compared to ~0.1 in comparable MEDITS surveys conducted in the same area in 1998.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Starry Smoothhound is a demersal species found in waters of up to ~200 m in depth, on sandy and gravelly bottoms (Compagno 1984, Ellis et al. 2005a), and may migrate inshore during the summer. It attains a maximum length of 140-150 cm and matures at a length of approximately 80-85 cm (Fischer et al. 1987). This species is viviparous and produces 7-15 pups per litter after a 12 month gestation period (Compagno et al. 2005). Size at birth is approximately 30 cm total length (TL) (Compagno et al. 2005). The stomach contents of Mustelus species have been studied by Ford (1921) and Ellis et al. (1996). Age data are not available for this species, but they are available for Mustelus mustelus. Da Silva (2007) reported that female M. mustelus mature at 10.75 years of age and live to a maximum observed age of 25 years. Using these data and the formula: age of maturity + 0.5*(length of reproductive period in life cycle), generation period of M. mustleus can be estimated at 17.8 years. This may provide a rough proxy for the generation period for M. asterias. Starry Smoothhound feeds predominantly on crustaceans, including squat lobsters and crabs, and especially swimming crabs. Predation on other taxa is low.
Generation Length (years):17.8

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The species is commercially valuable in the Mediterranean Sea, where it is utilized fresh, frozen, or salted and dried for human consumption. Regularly present on the Adriatic, Tyrrhenian, Tunisian and Turkish markets. It is sold fresh, frozen, refrigerated or salted-dried (Fisher et al. 1987). Often discarded by commercial fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic, but the species is important for recreational fisheries in some areas of this region.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Northeast Atlantic
Mustelus species are generally regarded as locally common, although they are not very abundant. They are occasionally taken by trawl and gill net, although they have little market value in northern European seas, and are often discarded. They may be landed for human consumption and also as bait for the inshore whelk fishery in England and Ireland. ICES landing statistics combine dogfish and hounds together and so there are little accurate data on North Atlantic landings, and levels of bycatch are unknown. In some areas, such as the Bristol Channel and English Channel in the United Kingdom, they are a relatively important sport fish (Ellis pers. obs.).

Mediterranean Sea
There is a high level of exploitation on the continental shelf and upper slope to about 800 m depth in the Mediterranean Sea (Massuti and Moranta 2003). Mustelus species are captured with demersal trawls, trammel nets, gillnets and longlines in this region (Bauchot 1987, STECF 2003). Semi-industrial fisheries in the Adriatic Sea, off Sicily, Spain and Cyprus are known to take these species, and also artisanal fisheries elsewhere. Mustelus species are retained and utilised in the Mediterranean Sea, where they regularly sold for human consumption in many areas (Fischer 1987). Trawl surveys in areas of the northern Mediterranean Sea show that frequency of occurrence of this species has declined over the last 50 years. Landings data reported to FAO show that landings of Mustelus spp (probably including M. mustelus, M. asterias and M. punctulatus) steadily increased between 1950 and 1978 to 14,000 t, after which they fluctuated between ~6,500 t and 14,000 t from 1978-1994 (FAO 2008). After 1994, landings dropped significantly, decreasing to 2,980 t in 1997 and did not exceed 2,200 t from 2001-2006 (FAO 2008). Although these landings are not species-specific, combined with the results of fishery-independent trawl surveys described above, they also suggest that this species has declined in abundance in the Mediterranean Sea.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Northeast Atlantic
Few species-specific landings data exist and improved data collection on commercial landings are required. There are some inshore areas where this species is locally abundant, including potential nursery grounds in outer estuaries and bays, and such areas should be monitored appropriately.

Mediterranean Sea
Improved data collection on commercial landings to species-level is required. Mustelus species are protected within Balearic Island marine reserves. Management measures are needed to prevent further declines in this region.

Citation: Serena, F., Mancusi, C. & Ellis, J. 2009. Mustelus asterias. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009: e.T39357A10214084. . Downloaded on 18 August 2018.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided