Mark, our Fundraising and Engagement Assistant, jumped onboard The Pelican of London. He was to be the Scientist in Residence for a two week adventure on this tall ship. Here is his story...

The Shark Trust and Seas Your Future collaborated for the first time in August 2023, where I joined the crew and young trainees onboard the tall ship, the Pelican of London, for a two-week voyage in the Irish Sea. 

You might be thinking “why is this such an important collaboration? How does sailing on a ship support sharks? What are young people going to be able to do for sharks now?” And you’re in luck, because all those questions are going to be answered in the time it takes you to read this.

The adventure started in Barrow-in-Furness, West Coast of England, for the annual sea festival, with an open boat where I was joined by Caroline. We spoke to over 5000 people about sharks and rays. Showing all the cool things about sharks and why they are such incredible creatures. How to get involved in the Great Eggcase Hunt. And how signing the Big Shark Pledge is supporting the future for sharks and rays!

From there, the Pelican set sail into the Irish sea, heading to Dublin, with each cabin filled by the new young trainees for a week of shark science, marine conservation, eggcase hunts, sail training and most importantly, fun! And then the young trainees would disembark, and another group of young trainees would get the same experience.

Each day everyone had their responsibilities, whether this was taking watch, manning the helm, helping to cook, cleaning the toilets, or pulling on ropes and hoping it was the correct one… But around all of these key daily tasks, we had the sailing training and the shark science!

The trainees and the crew were enthusiastic, getting involved with shark biology lessons, plankton trawls, learning about food chains and contributing to the Great Eggcase Hunt by searching beaches when we anchored off the coast of the Isle of Man and West Coast of Ireland.

Over the weeks, 60 trainees had the deepest dive into sharks that I have ever taught! On most shark education workshops, there isn’t a lot of time to go into detail as there is often only an hour or two to create a whirlwind of shark science and shark appreciation. But over the course of a week, surrounded by the ocean, it’s surprising how much you can learn and how much you want to learn.

These sessions were all-interactive to make them as engaging and as fun as possible, as well as having role playing games to learn in a different way from a standard session. Many trainees mentioned learning about sharks roles in ocean ecosystems and food chains and acting these out on the beach as one of the highlights of their voyage, as well as taking part in the Great Eggcase Hunt.

As well as learning about how incredible sharks and rays are, they also had to learn about the not-so-happy side to shark conservation. The threats that sharks face from overfishing are having a serious impact on the health of our oceans and this will not only negatively affect those ecosystems and the life there but also the communities that depend on those ecosystems. This made it so inspiring because although highlighting the threats and difficulties that sharks face today, the trainees and crew were full of hope for the future of sharks! Throughout the week, each individual became more and more involved and passionate about what they can do to support sharks and the health of our oceans.

And you can support sharks too! Here at The Shark Trust, we run a range of projects and initiatives that you can get involved in to support the future for sharks and rays! You can take part in our citizen science projects here, and you can support our biggest campaign yet, the BIG SHARK PLEDGE which will secure protections for oceanic sharks and rays.

Thank you to all the young trainees who took part from Erasmus+, Sail Training Ireland, Qormi, San Gwann and Furrieq Scout Groups from Malta, Kendal Sea Cadets and Merseyside Adventure Sailing Trust! And a huge thank you to Seas Your Future and all of the crew onboard the Pelican of London who made it such a memorable voyage for the trainees and myself!