Did you think scuba diving with sharks was only for tropical waters? Large schools of Spiny Dogfish are passing through the south-west coast of Norway every summer. Divers can have an epic experience surrounded by hundreds of sharks.
It all started in 2011 when Raymond Hobberstad was out on a scooter dive from the small harbor called Reve. One Spiny Dogfish after the other came out of the kelp forest and he suddenly found himself surrounded by curious sharks. After speaking to the local fishermen, it turned out that “everybody” knew that fishing in the area in June & July was useless. They would only catch the endangered shark.
“Great Barrier Reve”
The dive site goes by the humorous name “Great Barrier Reve”. If you forget the tempered water, kelp forest and murky visibility, it may feel like its Australian big brother. The coast of Jæren is well known for big waves and is one of the best surfing spots in Norway. Some days the sea is like a washing machine, and it’s just impossible to dive.
Video from Reve
Vulnerable for overfishing
The Spiny Dogfish matures late and gathers in large schools in some periods of the year. These conditions make them especially vulnerable for overfishing. A fishing net in the wrong place can make a drastic cut in the stocks.
The population around Europe have decreased by 95% over the last decades due to overfishing! The shark was and still is widely used as the main ingredient in Fish’n’chips.
Today the Spiny Dogfish is classified on the IUCN red list as “vulnerable” globally and “critically endangered” in the Northeast Atlantic. Anglers are not allowed to catch Spiny Dogfish in Norway. Professional fishermen are not allowed to target the shark, but some may be delivered as bycatch.
Information provides better protection
Fredrik Myhre is the leader of the organization “Hjelp Havets Haier” (Save the Sharks of the Sea). They want more information about the commercial fishing. He proposes to collect data from bycatch of sharks and to introduce a tag´n release program. In this program live sharks will be caught, measured, tagged and released back to sea. These simple measures will provide better knowledge of how the population is developing over time.
Lots of questions
So why do the Spiny Dogfish gather in such big schools outside Reve a few weeks every summer?
No one really knows, but an interesting observation is that the majority of the sharks are females. A lot of the sharks seems to be pregnant. Do they come here to give birth? Maybe the enormous kelp forest functions as protection for the baby sharks?
We don´t know where the sharks come from and where they go after visiting Reve. They may have fixed migration patterns. Knowledge about the shark is important information for strengthening the protection.
We hope Fredrik manage to convince the Directorate of fisheries in Norway to start the collection of quality information. We do not want this fantastic dive site to loose its superstar.
The ocean needs a healthy shark population for maintaining a balanced marine ecosystem.
Facts about Spiny Dogfish
- Can be found along the entire Norwegian coast.
- It is also known as Spurdog, Mud Shark and Piked Dogfish (Pigghå in Norwegian)
- It can appear in shallow waters, and in the deep fjords at depths of 1400m.
- The male can grow up to a meter in length
- The female can grow up to a maximum of 2 meters.
- The shark has two spines in front of each dorsal fin and no anal fin. The spines contain poison. It causes pain, but is not fatal for humans.
- Can live to be at least 70 years old.
- Mature at the age of 9-15 years old.
- The mating takes place during the winter months, and the female is pregnant for 22-24 months.