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7.2 UK


7.2.1 Catches

The UK is the second largest European elasmobranch fishing nation, behind France. In 1997 landings were over 21 400 tonnes, a 27.1% decline from 29 400 tonnes in 1950 and 0.5% more than the previous year. Major catches were achieved in the 1950s with an average of 32 600 tonnes annually, the peak year being 1951 with 35 300 tonnes. The average catch declined in the 1960s to 27 700 tonnes and in the 1970s to 25 700 tonnes. From 1979 to 1982 catches decreased steadily to reach a low of 18 300 tonnes in 1982. Since then catches have fluctuated.

In 1997 sharks represented 62.1% of the total UK elasmobranch catches. Picked dogfish was the leading species caught with 8 700 tonnes, followed by 3 900 tonnes of “various sharks not identified”, 660 tonnes of “dogfish and catsharks not identified”, 55 tonnes of tope shark and 47 tonnes of angel sharks. Catches of picked dogfish have shown several fluctuations from 1950 to the present, with a major increase registered in the 1970s, peaking at 19 500 tonnes in 1978. They reached a low of 6 800 tonnes in 1982. In 1997 they were at 8 700 tonnes, a 7.8% decline on 1996. According to Holden[120], catches of picked dogfish have existed since the beginning of the twentieth century, but they did not exceed 2 850 tonnes until 1931.

Figure 65 UK elasmobranch catches by species in 1 000 tonnes, 1950-1997

Source: FAO - FIDI.

Sharks are subject to both directed commercial and recreational fisheries[121]. Target commercial fisheries exist particularly for picked dogfish and skate, but a great proportion of these species is also caught as bycatch from trawl fisheries. Picked dogfish and catsharks (Scyliorhinus canicula, S. stellaris) are the most abundant and widespread species found in British coastal waters. Other species captured are nursehound and basking sharks. Fisheries targeting cod, haddock and hake catch species like blue shark, porbeagle and tope sharks incidentally. Porbeagle are fished recreationally with captures of around 100 sharks per year. An estimated 500 tope sharks are landed annually as bycatch, while recreational catches for these species are around 5 000 sharks per year, which are generally released. Recently a small-scale longline fishery for blue sharks started operating off the south coast of Cornwall. Blue sharks have been targeted recreationally off the Cornish coast since 1953. Present catches are around 500 sharks annually. In the past there were also target fisheries for basking sharks for their liver oil. According to Kunzlik[122], in the 1940s a fishery for basking sharks existed, mainly on the West Coast of Scotland. According to ICCAT between 1951-55 the basking sharks fishery peaked with over 1 000 sharks harvested annually. From 1983 basking sharks were the target of a single boat in the Clyde and northern Irish Sea, but this fishery has now stopped. Nowadays, small local catches are reported.

Until the late 1970s dogfish were mainly caught by side-trawlers in the North Sea and middle-water grounds and by a small fleet of East coast liners working a seasonal directed fishery. More recently there has been a growth in target fisheries by liners in the Channel, North Sea and Irish Sea together with bigger harvests being taken by Scottish fly-draggers[123].

Nearly all UK elasmobranch catches come from the Northeast Atlantic with very limited captures in the Southwest Atlantic, Antarctic Atlantic and Northwest Atlantic. According to Bonfil[124], during 1978-91, nearly half the picked dogfish were harvested in England and Wales with equal quantity in Scottish waters and around 6% from Northern Ireland. Major ports are those of Grimsby, Milford Haven, Peterhead and Aberdeen. Catches of sharks from waters along the shelf edge and in the Celtic Sea have grown since the late 1980s due to the activity of the Anglo-Spanish fleet and the arrival of tuna drift-netting by some Cornish and Irish boats.

Figure 66 UK elasmobranch catches by fishing areas in 1 000 tonnes, 1950-1997

Source: FAO - FIDI.

Until March 1998 there was no legislation at a national level for managing elasmobranch catches in the UK but there were some regional regulations to limit the size of sharks and rays landed in those areas. Three sea fisheries committees have established regional legislation planning to institute minimum size limits for skates and rays captured. Basking sharks were protected within a three-mile zone off the Isle of Man and, since 9 March 1998, throughout all UK national waters. On September 1997 the shark trust was established. This is the first organisation in the UK dedicated to promoting research into and conservation and management of sharks, rays and chimaeras.

7.2.2 Markets and trade

After the First World War shark meat began to be introduced into British fish-and-chip shops and nowadays UK is one of the major European markets for picked dogfish. Sharks are supplied by domestic landings and imports. As most dogfish caught in the UK is for the domestic market, the amount caught is correlated to local market demand. According to FAO statistics, UK production of elasmobranch consisted only of frozen sharks. Since 1976 it has shown a series of fluctuations, peaking at 2 100 tonnes in 1978 and bottoming at 180 tonnes in 1993.

UK imports of fresh and frozen sharks were particularly substantial in the mid 1980s, rising to 7 400 tonnes in 1987. According to data provided by the Sea Fish Industry Authority, 1998 imports were nearly 3 200 tonnes, worth US$7.8 million, a 12.3% growth in volume and 22.5% in value from 1997. The bulk of the imports (72.2%) is picked dogfish of which 1 200 tonnes, valued at US$3.1 million, is fresh and 1 100 tonnes, worth US$3.2 million, is frozen. Only 4 tonnes of catsharks were imported, valued at US$4 900. Imports of other sharks were around 880 tonnes, worth US$1.5 million, of which 680 tonnes (US$1.2 million) were fresh, 180 tonnes (US$283 400) frozen whole and 20 tonnes (US$60 500) were frozen fillets. Imports of fresh shark have declined considerably in the early 1990s to a low of 810 tonnes in 1991. This decline was particularly marked for picked dogfish; only 150 tonnes in that year.

Figure 67 UK shark imports by product forms in tonnes

Source: EUROSTAT/ Sea Fish Industry Authority.

Figure 68 UK shark imports by species in tonnes

Source: EUROSTAT/ Sea Fish Industry Authority.

In 1998 the USA was by far the largest supplier to the UK with 1 590 tonnes, worth US$5.3 million, followed by Ireland (900 tonnes, worth US$1.1 million) and Faeroe Islands (310 tonnes, worth US$413 700). Imports from the USA have grown considerably in the past few years. In 1988 they amounted to 670 tonnes, rising to a maximum of 1 600 tonnes in 1994. Imports from the USA consist almost entirely of picked dogfish which amounted to 1 020 tonnes, worth US$3.0 million, fresh and nearly 1 030 tonnes, worth US$3.0 million, frozen in 1998.

In the past Norway was the traditional supplier of picked dogfish to the UK. In 1974, out of a total of nearly 1 200 tonnes, worth US$1.1 million, Norway exported nearly 1 100 tonnes to the UK. In 1990 these exports were around 800 tonnes but now Norway exports only small amounts of picked dogfish and catsharks to the UK, 8 tonnes, worth US$12 320, in 1998.

In 1998 main suppliers for other sharks were Ireland and Faeroe Islands, while the 4 tonnes of catsharks came from Norway.

Figure 69 UK shark imports by country of origin in tonnes

Source: EUROSTAT/ Sea Fish Industry Authority.

The UK requires dressed carcasses (head-off, tail-off, skin-off, gutted). Picked dogfish imported from the USA is considered better quality than native, due to better handling. Most of the imports of fresh, whole dogfish are destined for the processing industry and only small quantities of this production is for the domestic market as it is often re-exported to other European countries in particular to France, Belgium and Germany. Processing of belly flaps is entirely for the German market. Imports of frozen products are usually for domestic use but may also be exported via brokerage.

Dogfish is mainly used in the fish and chip trade, in London and southern England in particular. The amount sold for home consumption is not very large but it has been growing. The terms shark and dogfish are considered to have a negative impact on UK consumers, so shark in the UK is usually marketed as rock salmon but names like flake, huss and rock eel are sometimes used. In March 1999, the wholesale price for fresh skinned dogfish, medium size was US$7.45/kg, that for larger sizes US$8.30/kg. The price for frozen skinned dogfish ranged between US$2.20/kg and US$3.12/kg.

Figure 70 Wholesale prices for fresh and frozen dogfish in Gbp/kg

Source: Billingsgate.

The small amounts of blue shark, caught usually as bycatch, are not considered as high quality fish and are generally exported to France. However, the few small spotted catsharks caught are used in the fish and chips trade.

UK exports a significant proportion of its production and also re-exports sharks after processing. Exports of sharks (mainly processed backs) have been very varied since 1976. They peaked at 8 000 tonnes in 1987, decreased considerably in the last few years and in 1998 were only at 990 tonnes, worth US$3.5 million, according to statistics of the Sea Fish Industry Authority. There has been a steep decline since 1993 when they fell by 52% compared with the previous year. This decrease is correlated to the decline in the UK share of supply to France, which continues to represent the principal market for its exports. In the past UK was the principal supplier of fresh whole picked dogfish to France, a role that now has been taken by the USA. In the last few years UK shark exports to France have steadily declined to 610 tonnes, worth US$1.9 million, in 1998. In 1988 these exports amounted to 5 300 tonnes. Also, exports to Germany have significantly diminished to only 57 tonnes, worth US$155 200, in 1998. Germany was the traditional destination for belly flaps, which were smoked to obtain the Schillerlocken, a typical German product. In 1998 UK also exported 224 tonnes, worth US$1.1 million, to Italy and nearly 30 tonnes, worth US$106 100 to Singapore.

Figure 71 UK shark exports by product forms in tonnes

Source: EUROSTAT/ Sea Fish Industry Authority.

The great bulk of UK exports are fresh, with 630 tonnes out of 990 tonnes in 1998. In the same year 81.5% of exports consisted of picked dogfish, 13.7% of other sharks and 4.8% of catsharks. Exports of picked dogfish were mainly destined for France and Italy; catsharks were sent to France, Italy and Spain and the other sharks went to France, Singapore, Norway and Germany.

Figure 72 UK shark exports by species in tonnes

Source: EUROSTAT/ Sea Fish Industry Authority.

Figure 73 UK shark exports by countries in tonnes

Source: EUROSTAT/ Sea Fish Industry Authority.

A few processors/distributors dominate the UK shark trade. They are based in Grimsby, Fleetwood, Aberdeen, Fraserburgh and Newlyn.

UK sharks are not considered suitable for fin production except for Lamna nasus but this species is harvested in very small quantities. There are a few factories which process picked dogfish pectoral fins and tails as by-products and export them to markets in the Far East. There are indications that this practice could increase. As the UK has one of the major Chinese immigrant and naturalised Chinese populations in Europe, mainly in London and Manchester, there are imports of canned fin soup, dried and processed fins and dried whole fins.

In the UK, small-spotted catsharks and nursehounds are used as bait in pot fisheries for crustaceans and molluscs[125].

The UK imports shark cartilage products. Prices are around US$16.30 per 90 capsules of 500mg shark cartilage and US$65.50 per 200g of shark cartilage in powder.

Table 39 UK elasmobranch catches by species in tonnes


1950

1951

1952

1953

1954

1955

1956

1957

1958

1959

Picked dogfish

9 600

13 400

14 400

11 800

11 500

12 900

12 100

13 400

13 100

12 500

Raja rays nei

19 700

21 800

20 600

20 900

20 200

19 700

18 800

19 800

20 200

18 500

Various sharks nei

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Dogfishes and hounds nei

100

100

100

100

100

-

-

100

100

200

Tope shark

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Angelsharks, sand devils nei

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Rays, stingrays, mantas nei

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Sharks, rays, skates, etc. nei

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Dogfish sharks nei

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Porbeagle

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Total

29 400

35 300

35 100

32 800

31 800

32 600

30 900

33 300

33 400

31 200













1960

1961

1962

1963

1964

1965

1966

1967

1968

1969

Picked dogfish

11 800

10 600

7 700

7 700

9 800

9 700

11 000

12 900

13 000

11 700

Raja rays nei

17 340

17 314

15 615

15 677

15 708

14 750

13 374

12 651

12 825

12 000

Various sharks nei

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Dogfishes and hounds nei

200

100

100

100

200

300

100

-

-

100

Tope shark

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Angelsharks, sand devils nei

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Rays, stingrays, mantas nei

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Sharks, rays, skates, etc. nei

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Dogfish sharks nei

-

-

8

1

8

0

0

10

0

0

Porbeagle

-

-

0

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

Total

29 340

28 014

23 423

23 478

25 716

24 750

24 474

25 561

25 825

23 800













1970

1971

1972

1973

1974

1975

1976

1977

1978

1979

Picked dogfish

12 100

15 400

16 200

17 100

16 354

18 761

18 737

19 292

19 454

16 673

Raja rays nei

10 300

10 905

10 435

8 852

7 476

7 864

7 979

8 132

7 709

7 232

Various sharks nei

0

0

-

-

13

13

19

18

32

31

Dogfishes and hounds nei

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

0

0

Tope shark

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Angelsharks, sand devils nei

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Rays, stingrays, mantas nei

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Sharks, rays, skates, etc. nei

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Dogfish sharks nei

0

0

-

0

4

0

-

0

0

0

Porbeagle

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Total

22 400

26 305

26 635

25 952

23 847

26 638

26 735

27 442

27 195

23 936

Table 39 UK elasmobranch catches by species in tonnes (continued)


1980

1981

1982

1983

1984

1985

1986

1987

1988

1989












Picked dogfish

14 066

12 932

11 234

11 010

12 810

14 483

13 183

15 577

14 618

13 311

Raja rays nei

7 233

6 802

7 011

7 344

7 916

8 152

7 900

9 803

9 104

8 439

Various sharks nei

56

74

101

41

29

17

23

27

311

60

Dogfishes and hounds nei

0

0

0

122

144

164

234

245

310

228

Tope shark

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

74

Angelsharks, sand devils nei

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

2

Rays, stingrays, mantas nei

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

29

180

47

Sharks, rays, skates, etc. nei

-

-

-


0

0

0

0

0

0

Dogfish sharks nei

0

0

0

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

Porbeagle

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Total

21 355

19 808

18 346

18 517

20 899

22 816

21 340

25 681

24 523

22 161













1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997



Picked dogfish

13 081

12 171

13 812

10 032

8 072

10 815

9 423

8 691



Raja rays nei

8 331

7 841

8 046

7 538

7 781

8 373

9 157

8 088



Various sharks nei

57

378

1 119

1 393

1 944

2 339

2 040

3 865



Dogfishes and hounds nei

247

230

366

638

487

553

654

660



Tope shark

59

68

68

62

71

63

53

55



Angelsharks, sand devils nei

1

1

-

-

-

-

-

47



Rays, stingrays, mantas nei


1

1

29

3

12

8

21



Sharks, rays, skates, etc. nei

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

16



Dogfish sharks nei

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-



Porbeagle

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-



Total

21 776

20 690

23 412

19 692

18 358

22 155

21 335

21 443



Source: FAO - FIDI..

Table 40 UK elasmobranch catches by fishing area in tonnes


1950

1951

1952

1953

1954

1955

1956

1957

1958

1959

Atlantic, Northeast

29 400

35 300

35 100

32 800

31 800

32 600

30 900

33 300

33 400

31 200

Atlantic, Southwest

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Atlantic, Antarctic

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Atlantic, Northwest

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Total

29 400

35 300

35 100

32 800

31 800

32 600

30 900

33 300

33 400

31 200













1960

1961

1962

1963

1964

1965

1966

1967

1968

1969

Atlantic, Northeast

29 300

28 000

23 400

23 400

25 500

24 500

24 200

25 400

25 800

23 800

Atlantic, Southwest

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Atlantic, Antarctic

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Atlantic, Northwest

40

14

23

78

216

250

274

161

25

0

Total

29 340

28 014

23 423

23 478

25 716

24 750

24 474

25 561

25 825

23 800













1970

1971

1972

1973

1974

1975

1976

1977

1978

1979

Atlantic, Northeast

22 400

26 300

26 600

25 900

23 718

26 638

26 735

27 442

27 164

23 936

Atlantic, Southwest

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Atlantic, Antarctic

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Atlantic, Northwest

-

5

35

52

129

-

-

-

31

0

Total

22 400

26 305

26 635

25 952

23 847

26 638

26 735

27 442

27 195

23 936













1980

1981

1982

1983

1984

1985

1986

1987

1988

1989

Atlantic, Northeast

21 355

19 808

18 346

18 517

20 899

22 816

21 340

25 652

24 343

22 114

Atlantic, Southwest

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

29

180

47

Atlantic, Antarctic

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Atlantic, Northwest

0

0

0

0

-

-

0

0

0

0

Total

21 355

19 808

18 346

18 517

20 899

22 816

21 340

25 681

24 523

22 161













1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997



Atlantic, Northeast

21 776

20 688

23 408

19 663

18 355

22 143

21 327

21 406



Atlantic, Southwest

-

1

0

29

3

12

8

33



Atlantic, Antarctic

-

-

1

0

0

0

0

4



Atlantic, Northwest

0

1

3

0

0

0

0

0



Total

21 776

20 690

23 412

19 692

18 358

22 155

21 335

21 443



Source: FAO - FIDI.

Table 41 UK imports of sharks by product form in tonnes

Products

1988

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

Fresh or chilled:












Picked dogfish and catsharks

3 372

1 086

261

218

610

1 018

1 254

1 616

1 106

1 206

1 188


Of which:













Picked dogfish

na

na

236

148

204

1 004

1 230

1 570

1 078

1 200

1 184


Catsharks

na

na

25

70

406

14

24

46

28

6

4

Other sharks

109

35

927

595

195

186

509

433

679

441

680

Total

3 481

1 121

1 188

813

805

1 204

1 763

2 049

1 785

1 647

1 868













Frozen:












Picked dogfish and catsharks

918

1 265

1 549

1 134

1 577

1 310

1 188

1 170

1 185

1 038

1 102


Of which:













Picked dogfish

na

na

1 531

1 134

1 577

1 310

1 188

1 170

1 185

1 038

1 102


Catsharks

na

na

18

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Other sharks

124

185

335

203

157

124

140

100

158

129

178

Total

1 042

1 450

1 884

1 337

1 734

1 434

1 328

1 270

1 343

1 167

1 280













Frozen fillets:












Picked dogfish and catsharks

1

31

12

13

19

55

2

-

1

-

-

Other sharks

14

6

8

1

17

3

4

20

1

8

20

Total

15

37

20

14

36

58

6

20

2

8

20













Grand total

4 538

2 608

3 092

2 164

2 575

2 696

3 097

3 339

3 130

2 822

3 168

Source: EUROSTAT and Sea Fish Industry Authority.

Table 42 UK imports of sharks by product form in US$ 1 000

Products

1988

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

Fresh or chilled:












Picked dogfish and catsharks

2 420

1 011

392

458

800

1 096

3 933

3 252

2 392

3 009

3 069


Of which:













Picked dogfish

na

na

345

325

373

1 063

3 889

3 214

2 346

3 002

3 064


Catsharks

na

na

47

133

427

33

44

38

46

7

5

Other sharks

119

48

989

873

402

288

1 245

888

1 801

956

1 201

Total

2 539

1 059

1 381

1 331

1 202

1 384

5 178

4 140

4 193

3 965

4 271













Frozen:












Picked dogfish and catsharks

1 613

2 372

3 340

2 217

2 766

2 535

3 396

2 150

2 286

2 154

3 213




Of which:













Picked dogfish

na

na

3 302

2 217

2 766

2 535

3 396

2 150

2 286

2 154

3 213


Catsharks

na

na

38

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-



Other sharks

288

312

652

392

275

184

392

260

317

236

283

Total

1 901

2 684

3 992

2 609

3 041

2 719

3 788

2 410

2 603

2 390

3 497













Frozen fillets:












Picked dogfish and catsharks

2

19

14

43

26

129

11

-

1

-

-

Other sharks

39

34

22

4

45

6

23

63

1

36

60

Total

41

53

36

47

71

135

34

63

2

36

60













Grand total

4 481

3 796

5 409

3 987

4 314

4 238

9 000

6 613

6 798

6 391

7 828

Source: EUROSTAT and Sea Fish Industry Authority.


[120 ]HOLDEN M.J., “Elasmobranchii” PP. 187-215. In J.A. Gulland Ed. “Fish population Dynamics”, J. Wiley and sons, London, UK, 1977.
[121 ]VAS P., “The status and conservation of sharks in Britain”. Aquatic conservation: marine and freshwater ecosystems 5: 67-79, 1995.
[122 ]KUNSLIK P.A., “The basking shark, Scottish Fisheries Information Pamphlet No. 14. Department of Agriculture and Fisheries of Scotland. 21 pp., 1988.
[123 ]SEA FISH INDUSTRY AUTHORITY, “Report No 2003, Species Profile: dogfish, UK, 1991.
[124 ]BONFIL R., idem.
[125 ]FLEMING E.H., PAPAGEORGIOU P.A., “Shark fisheries and trade in Europe”, TRAFFIC Europe, 1996.

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