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Shark Fisheries Project - North of England
The Shark Fisheries Project is the latest project of the Shark Trust. Funded by the Co-operative, the project aims to promote sustainability in elasmobranch (shark, skate and ray) fisheries in the North of England.
As apex predators sharks are a vital component of healthy, balanced marine ecosystems, which in-turn support productive fisheries for more traditional bony fish stocks. However sharks biological characteristics have more in common with mammals than bony fish, exhibiting slow growth, late maturity and few young – traits which leaves them highly vulnerable to overfishing, with populations slow to recover once depleted.
Fishermen have long taken sharks for their meat, fins and liver oil, and today a wide variety of sharks, skates and rays are taken incidentally in most Northeast Atlantic fisheries. Historically, however, shark catches have been under or misreported, and once-common British species such as the Spiny Dogfish, Common Skate, Angelshark and Porbeagle are now assessed as Critically Endangered, while more than half of all British species are listed as threatened or near threatened on the IUCN Redlist.
For shark fisheries to move towards sustainability, scientists and decision-makers need accurate ‘species-specific’ landings data, which is used to better understand the distribution and population structure of individual species. As this improves, the management of shark fisheries and conservation of threatened species will become more effective.
Focussing on ports in Yorkshire, Humberside, Lancashire and Cumbria gives the Shark Trust an invaluable opportunity to engage with the fishing industry in a region with a strong shark fishing heritage. Initially the project will concentrate on forging links within the commercial fishing industry. From there, recognising existing expertise within the fishing industry, the project will offer training in species identification – particularly for ‘lookalike’ ray, catshark and houndshark species – as well as aiding Industry compliance with legislation applicable to a growing number of sharks, skates and rays.
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