UK Policy
Tope © Matthew Meier.

Contrary to popular belief British waters are remarkably diverse – with over 30 species of shark, including some of the fastest, rarest, largest and most highly migratory sharks in the world.

In 1998, Basking Sharks were listed under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), and the stage was set for additional sharks to make the leap from commercially exploited fish to ‘wildlife’ – a highly significant change in mind-set. However this did not benefit many other species, although all Devolved Administrations have now adopted protective measures which prohibit the retention of Basking Shark, White Skate and Angelshark.

In 2012 the Trust influenced Scotland’s adoption of the Scottish Elasmobranch Protection Order, which prohibits the retention of a further 26 species of shark, skate and ray. With the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) publishing its Shark, Skate and Ray Conservation Plan in 2011 there is now a solid framework from which to deliver positive domestic management and protection for sharks. 

During the past five years the Shark Trust has specifically contributed to the following groups in the UK:

UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) - The UK BAP aims to conserve and enhance biological diversity in the UK. As an active lead partner in the Basking Shark and Common Skate Species Action Plans (SAP’s), the Trust was pleased to contribute to the adoption of a further 13 sharks to the BAP process in 2007.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) - Defra is a government department in the UK, who are responsible for making and delivering policy and legislation relating to the natural environment. The Trust values a positive relationship with the Marine and Fisheries Directorate and liaises on a regular basis with the department and on occasion with the Fisheries Minister.

Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAS) - The Trust actively supports some IFCAS in the implementation of minimum landing sizes for skate and ray, as well as the implementation of protective measures for Tope.

Marine Management Organisation (MMO) - We work closely with Marine and Fisheries Agency Officers, as well as the newly established MMO to improve the sustainability of our seas. In conjunction with Defra and the MMO, the Shark Trust has released 17 Commercial Fisheries Advisories to assist the commercial fishing industry and enforcement agencies by providing rapid access to the legislative status of sharks, skates and rays in UK and EU waters.

Marine Protected Areas (MPA) - The Trust actively contributes to the MPA/MCZ process and other MPA/Natura 2000 associated activities.

Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA) - In March 2007, after six years of lobbying activity, the Angelshark finally received protection in English and Welsh waters out to 6 nautical miles, making it illegal to target, land or injure them. Following extensive work with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), and active contribution to government working groups, in March 2010 the Trust contributed to the 5th Quinquennial Review, presenting a case for the listing of a further five species and extension of the protection for the Angelshark.