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Starry Smoothhound

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Starry Smoothound by Marc Dando


Starry Smoothounds are sleek, silvery sharks with a highly sensory muzzle that feed on small invertebrates and fish which they pick up from the seabed. They give birth to live young. They are not historically targeted by fishermen but are often caught as by-catch.

Sustainability Overview

Not often offered for sale in the UK, smoothound sharks are caught as by catch in trawl and net fisheries. Their populations are not well studied but recent information from ICES shows that popluations are growing and that fishing effort is low. Sharks are not generally a good choice to go for as  they are slow to reproduce and therefore are more vulnerable to fishing than bony fish.

108 tonnes of smoothhounds were landed to Cornish ports in 2021, with a value of £61k (MMO data).

Updated April 2024

Sustainability ratings for this species

Demersal Trawl

Cornish vessels landing to Cornish ports

Demersal trawls are large nets that are pulled through the water with the bottom edge of the net touching the seabed. At each edge the net is pulled open by metal ‘trawl doors’. Sometimes referred to as Otter trawling.

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How we rate fish

Cornwall Good Seafood Guide rates fish on sustainability using a scale of 1 to 5.

1, 2 and 3 are recommended, Fish to avoid are rated 5.

We use the system devised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) so our scores are comparable with the scores produced by MCS for the UK and fisheries from all around the world. For more information on scoring click here.


The main species of smoothound shark caught in Cornish waters is the Stary Smoothhound, which has small, white, star-like skin-teeth punctuating its silver grey flanks. They are relatively fast growing for sharks but are still vulnerable to over fishing as they give birth to a small number of highly developed young each year (gestation is 11 months, with 4 -15 young produced at a time) and take a long time to reach maturity.  Vulnerability to fishing is high to very high 71/100, resilience Very Low, minimum population doubling time more than 14 years (Fishbase). 

Stock Info

This stock has not been well studied and is data poor however in 2023 ICES provided advice for Starry smoothound. The advice showed that populations are building in area 7 and in the wider NE Atlantic and that fishing pressure is below levels needed to attain MSY.  ICUN list smoothhounds as of least concern. Catches landed to Cornish ports appear to have increased but it is likely that this is due to better standards of monitoring of shark and ray catches. Around 120 tonnes are landed each year. There is a limited market for smoothounds in the UK but much are exported to northern Europe.



The Starry Smoothhound is a widespread although not abundant species. It is taken as bycatch in trawl and gillnet fisheries but there does not appear to be any immediate threat from overexploitation in the Atlantic. There is no quota for smoothounds. They are not commercially targeted but often make up a considerable bycatch in trawl and gill net fisheries. 

Capture Info

Caught mainly as bycatch in trawl and gill net fisheries.


ICES advice Smoothhound 2023
ICES WGEF report 2018 (page 596)
ICES Avice Smoothhound 2019
ICES Advice Smoothhound 2017
Fish base Starry Smoothhound
MMO landings data

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