Visitors to Ocean County beaches over the past several days have taken to social media to report a plethora of spiny dogfish, commonly called sand sharks, washing up on the shore.
In most cases, the fish have been barely alive or severely injured or dead, leading many to express concern over why there are so many fish washing up all within the span of a few days. The fish were found in Seaside Heights, Ortley Beach, Lavallette and multiple Long Beach Island towns this week.
Shorebeat contacted the state Department of Environmental Protection, which looked into the matter. At the first, the DEP theorized that the fish may have been caught in commercial gill nets and released after the fishermen reached their possession limit, but later, the state agency pulled back on that theory after examining some of the dead fish.
“One of the marine officers that had looked at the fish that had noticed markings on the fish that were not indicative of gill nets,” said DEP spokeswoman Caryn Shinske.
The examination indicated the fish may have been caught by a hook.
Prevalent in New Jersey waters, the spiny dogfish is generally considered a nuisance species by both commercial and recreational fishermen. While edible, the species is difficult to clean and filet, is is normally thrown back by anglers.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated as of 4 p.m., April 1, 2016, to reflect new information provided to Shorebeat by the DEP.