Surgeon General Paske, in an interesting book relating to sea fish, called 'The Sea and the Rod,' written by himself and Mr. F. G. Aflalo, describes how he once succeeded in catching one of these pilot fish in a bucket let down over the side of the vessel. A peculiarity of sharks and dogfish which I have not mentioned is that they have eyelids, and, on being brought into a boat, open and shut their eyes in most human fashion.
Sharks and dogfish, though held in detestation by British fishermen, and with good reason, still have their uses. A valuable oil is extracted from their livers and gelatine from their fins, while the skins of some species make excellent sandpaper. In the market of Canton the prices of shark fins, which the Chinese regard as a great delicacy, are regularly quoted ; and extensive shark fisheries are carried on in various parts of the world for the purpose of supplying China. In Sydney shark fins have fetched as much as 28 l. per ton.
Off Iceland a fleet of about a hundred boats is employed in capturing sharks for the sake of their livers only. The bodies, after the livers are extracted, are thrown away. The hooks used by the Icelandic fishermen vary from twelve to eighteen inches in length, the baits being seal blubber and horseflesh.
Between the line, which is an inch and a half in diameter, and the hook is a couple of yards of strong chain. I have heard that the sharks at first appear shy, the fishermen often having to wait long for a bite. But as likely as not this is when the fish are not present, for as soon as one is caught others follow in rapid succession, giving the impression that a shoal has suddenly come up and discovered the bait. The bait is held quietly about two fathoms above the bottom.
As shark oil is imported into England, and gelatine is not unknown in our islands, it will almost seem as if our fishermen, when harassed by shoals of large dogfish or sharks to such an extent that the fishery is for the time being stopped, might set to work and capture a load of these common nuisances and get some satisfaction out of their livers and skins. There is an instance on record of a long line being raised bearing on its hooks nothing but skeletons, which the fishermen tied to their rigging, and sailed into port with these strange adornments. Dogfish were supposed to be the culprits, but I rather suspect the wormlike fish which annoy the fishermen off the coast of Northumberland by entering the mouths or gills of the fish on the lines and feasting on the interior, eventually leaving little except the bones.
Of small dogfish the three most commonly caught are the Picked or Spur-dog (Acanthias vulgaris), the Nurse-hound (Scyllium catulus), and the Rough-hound (Scyllium canicula).