Shark Angling © David Cook.

Recording the UK's Natural Heritage

Heritage Lottery Fund Logo.Background to the Project

Shark, skates and rays have long been popular target species for anglers in the UK. Yet around the world, populations of many species have declined alarmingly over the last 50 years. In the Northeast Atlantic, once common species including the Common Skate, Angelshark, Spurdog (also known as Spiny Dogfish) and Porbeagle have experienced population declines in excess of 80%, and are now listed as Critically Endangered. Focusing on sharks, skates and rays, the Northeast Atlantic ocean has the worst conservation status of any region in the world, with nearly a third of species listed in Threat categories on the IUCN Red List (including 8% assessed as Critically Endangered), while a further 29% are Near Threatened.

The health of our oceans and seas is reliant on robust populations of top predators, many of which are ‘keystone’ species. Without them, marine ecosystems can become unbalanced, leading to unpredictable and sometimes irreversible changes. Sharks are particularly vulnerable as they are slow growing, mature late and have few offspring - factors which make them highly vulnerable to overexploitation in commercial fisheries.

Although, in the past, some shark species have supported large fisheries, in comparison to bony fish such as cod and mackerel, they were afforded a low priority by fisheries managers and researchers.  Similarly, catches and landings of sharks, skates and rays in commercial fisheries were historically poorly recorded, for example all skates and rays were landed in the single aggregated category ‘Skates and rays’. 

Read the Shark Trust's Position Statement on Angling for Critically Endangered Species (pdf).

The Project

To better understand and manage shark, skate and ray fisheries we need to know as much as possible about their populations and movements. Anglers are uniquely placed to record this information and in 2010 the Shark Trust initiated a pilot project in the Southwest of England asking anglers to record all sharks, skates and rays they catch. In 2014, the Angler Recording Project is now extending throughout the entire UK. For sharks this covers everything from Porbeagle and Blue Sharks to the humble Bullhuss (also known Nursehound). And for skates and rays, everything from the Common Skate to the more diminutive Cuckoo Rays, as well as rarer visitors such as stingrays and electric rays.

The Shark Trust has produced a free Shark, Skate and Ray ID Guide, as well as a Pocket Guide and CD-ROM – and a wide range of additional leaflets and posters. If you’d like to get involved, contact the Shark Trust for free copies of these materials, or download them from the website. You can also record your catch using our online recording form.

In time, the information collated by the Angler Recording Project will increase our understanding of inshore shark, skate and ray populations throughout the UK, feeding into the development of more effective management and, where necessary, protection. The data will be held and analysed by the Shark Trust and made available to the public via the Shark Trust website, through regular reporting and at Local Record Centres in each county.

All personal details and specific fishing marks (locations, co-ordinates) supplied will remain 100% confidential.