Declining numbers of dogfish in Puget Sound

Posted: Friday, August 05, 2005

SEATTLE (AP) — The number of dogfish in Washington’s inland waters has dropped to historic lows, researchers say, due to overfishing, changes in available food supply and predators.

Researchers also attribute the small shark’s decline to nontribal fisherman who, after the 1974 Boldt decision that allocated half the state’s harvestable salmon to treaty tribes, sought salmon in the deepest parts of Puget Sound, where mature dogfish live.

The area’s population of dogfish was last estimated in 2001 at 1.75 million, down from 10 million in 1987, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Some in the commercial dogfish industry contest the findings, but local sport-fishing guides have noticed the decline.

‘‘To be honest with you, I’ve only caught one,’’ said Dave Morgison, owner of Possession Point Fishing Charters of Everett. He’s been fishing Puget Sound for five decades and says 15 or 20 years ago dogfish would blanket parts of the water by the thousands.

Known for their painfully sharp spines, dogfish have beady eyes and a pointed snout, making them one of the least appealing of the world’s 400 shark species.

But scientists and a handful of commercial fishermen say the dogfish is a creature worth saving.

‘‘We need to get the message out to the public. It’s an amazing animal that can live up to 100 years,’’ said Richard Beamish, senior scientist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada in Nanaimo, British Columbia.

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