Portuguese Dogfish

Portugese Dogfish

  • Scientific name: Centroscymnus coelolepis
  • Also know as: Portuguese Shark
  • Size: Up to 4ft
  • UK minimum size: N/a
  • UK shore caught record: N/a
  • IUCN status: Overall classed as NT (Near Threatened), European populations are classed as EN (Endangered).
  • Distribution: Found down to depths of 4000 metres. British Isles populations are concentrated around the very deep water Rockall Trough and Faroe-Shetland Channel.
  • Feeds on: Mostly fish and squid, although will also scavenge on seabed for other sources of food.
  • Description: Thick body. Two small dorsal fins are present with very small spines at the leading edge. Other fins are also relatively small. Eyes are large and appear green. Snout is short and mouth full of small rows of sharp teeth. Colour generally dark brown to blackish.

A small shark species growing to around 3-4 feet in length, the Portuguese dogfish is the deepest living of all the shark species, being found at depths of several thousand metres. It is targeted by fisheries and numbers of this species – particularly in Europe – have declined significantly in recent decades.

Distribution and Feeding

Worldwide distribution of the Portuguese dogfish

Worldwide distribution of the Portuguese dogfish

The Portuguese dogfish has a world-wide distribution, although it is sparsely populated in many of the areas where it is found. It is found on both sides of the Atlantic, from Greenland to the west African coast (with a separate population around South Africa) and along the coastline of the USA and Canada with a much smaller South American population. It is also found in the Indian Ocean from Madagascar to Australia and New Zealand, with another separate stock found around Japan. The Portuguese dogfish is only found in Britain in the Rockall Trough, Faroe-Shetland Channel and a few other locations on the west coast of the British Isles which are deep enough to hold populations of this species.

The Portuguese dogfish is primarily a predator. It will scour around the seabed hunting down fish and squid. However, at times they will also scour the seabed for anything they can find, and will take any crustaceans and prawns they come across, and will also feed on dead and rotting fish.

Commercial Value

Portuguese dogfish have been targeted by fishermen since the earliest years of the Twentieth Century as their flesh is edible and the liver contains valuable oil. This means that fisheries across the world but particularly in Japan, Portugal and several Mediterranean countries have targeted this species. In addition to this deep-sea trawls which are targeting other species also catch Portuguese dogfish as bycatch.

Portuguese dogfish

A picture from 1908 showing Portuguese dogfish caught on a long line which had been set at 1450 metres.

This has caused populations of this species to plummet, with the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) stating that Portuguese dogfish numbers in the north east Atlantic have declined by 80% over the last one hundred years. Today the IUCN class this species as Near Threatened overall, but European populations are classed as Endangered with a decreasing population trend, and the IUCN also warn that current catch levels are unsustainable. The European Union has imposed catch limits, but with Portuguese dogfish still being caught as bycatch the long term outlook for this species, especially in European waters, in uncertain.

Share this page: