Little sharks have become popular in Vancouver after recent videos of spiny dogfish feeding along the Stanley Park seawall and Granville Island emerged online.
Spiny dogfish are extremely common along the west coast and hunt in large schools. Technically a shark, the marine creatures grow between 75 and 105 cm. They generally live between 30 to 40 years, but some can live as long as 70.
Dogfish were harvested in Canada in the early 20th century for their oil-rich liver, which was used for lamp oil and machine lubricants. They are part of a directed fishery in Atlantic Canada and are studied extensively by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Spiny dogfish are mostly considered a nuisance in the B.C. fishing community. They often interfere with fishing operations for other species and can damage gear.
So why are we seeing so many in local waters around the city these days?
According to Jason Assonitis, owner of Bon Chovy Fishing Charters, an abundance of juvenile herring and a recent anchovy bloom (both major food sources for dogfish) could be the reason.
Since 2011 the Squamish Streamkeepers have been trying to restore the herring population in False Creek, following years of a spawning decline due to increased urbanization. The initiative includes wrapping creosote pilings and making net panels, which provide artificial surfaces for herring spawning and rearing habitat.
Jeffrey Scott, a sustainable fisheries researcher with Skipper Otto, speculates changing currents and rising water temperatures could also play a role.
But are you allowed to catch them? Turns out you can and it's actually pretty easy.
First things first, if you intend on fishing you'll need a proper licence, which can be obtained online.
In terms of bait, small fish such as cod, herring, haddock, or hake work best. Dogfish also eat invertebrates like krill, crabs, jellyfish, squid, and octopus.
The current daily catch limit in B.C. is four.
Can you eat them?
In some parts of the world, spiny dogfish are used as a food source in fish and chips. They can even be smoked or used in stews. Their tough skin can make preparation difficult and watch out for those spines!
Scott even says dogfish are kind of cute so you'll probably want to toss them back.
"They have these cat-like eyes; they make you feel very sympathetic toward them."
You won't need a bigger boat, just a bit of patience.
With files from Cameron Thomson