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Angler Recording Project
Recording the Southwest's Natural Heritage
Across the world, shark populations have declined alarmingly in the last 50 years. In the Northeast Atlantic, once common species such as the Common Skate and Spurdog have been reduced to just 5% of their natural abundance and many anglers’ favourites such as the Porbeagle are in danger of disappearing from our waters completely.
The health and diversity of our oceans is reliant on robust populations of top predators, as they are often ‘keystone’ species, and ecosystems can become unbalanced without them, leading to unpredictable and sometimes irreversible changes. Sharks are particularly vulnerable as they grow slowly, mature late and have few offspring - all factors that lead to them being quickly overfished when targeted.
Although some species have supported large fisheries in the past, compared to bony fish such as cod, they have been a low priority for both fisheries managers and scientific studies. Sharks have historically been poorly recorded in commercial fisheries and the numerous different skates and rays have been landed as a single group. Many species have undergone significant population declines and around the UK: 36% are in a threat category, 38% are near threatened and 12% are data deficient on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.
➤ Read the Shark Trust's Position Statement on Angling for Critically Endangered Species (pdf).
To create effective protected areas and to better manage fisheries we need to know as much as possible about shark populations and movements. Anglers are uniquely placed to record this information and so the Shark Trust is starting a pilot project in the Southwest of England asking anglers to record all of the sharks, skates and rays they catch. For sharks this covers everything from Porbeagle and Blue Sharks to the humble Bullhuss. For skates and rays everything from Common Skate to Cuckoo Rays, as well as rare visitors such as stingrays and electric rays. The Southwest of England includes the coastlines and waters of the Scilly Isles, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Avon.
To help with this we have produced a handbook about the project along with identification guides and recording forms. If you’d like to get involved you can contact the office for a copy of these materials, or download them from the website. You can also record your catch using our online recording form.
The information collected for this study will increase our understanding of inshore shark, skate and ray populations in the Southwest and hopefully feed into the development of better management and protected areas. The data will be held and analysed by the Shark Trust and made available to the public through reports, maps and the local biodiversity records centre in each county.
All personal details and specific fishing marks will remain confidential.
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