Wildlife Presenter, Nick Baker, has travelled to the wildest parts of the planet in search of the most incredible creatures. Perhaps best known for presenting The Really Wild Show on Children’s BBC, Nick has been a long standing patron of the Shark Trust and ambassador for our Great Eggcase Hunt Project.

I think back to the first time I found a ‘mermaid’s purse’ on a Sussex beach, it was the beginning of a journey, one fuelled by a natural, innate curiosity. When my grandfather who accompanied me on our regular beachcombing forays told me it was the eggcase of some kind of shark, my 8 year old mind started pinging!

Holding this honey-coloured treasure in the palm of my hand, I savoured its rubbery feel, and its alien perfection. I absolutely loved the curly tendrils that emanated from each corner and when I found the little slit through which a diminutive shark had emerged, my imagination kicked in. Looking out into the uninviting brown water of the English Channel, I had never really thought about what might be living out there just below the surface - I guess up until that point the idea that we had sharks in our waters had never really crossed my mind.

I found many similar objects over the next few years; some black - looking like something Batman might have dropped from his utility belt - others various browns and tans and once I even found one with a tiny, barely alive Smallspotted Catshark writhing around in its embryonic fluid.

These were my natural treasures, and it was exciting to know that I had a collection produced by different species of skates, rays and a couple of small sharks all found in our waters. I set about collecting, identifying and hoarding as many as I could. Sharks, their cousins and their eggcases were special to me.

These natural vessels, it turns out are so much more than treasure in the beachcombers pocket they’re special to the Shark Trust too. Not just as beautiful natural curios but they’re vital in helping find these elusive elasmobranchs. Who would have thought you could track fish this way? For that is what they’re doing - by collating the presence of these eggcases around our shores, each of which is unique and distinctive to the species, the Trust is able to get a handle on which species are breeding, where and in what sort of numbers - all without getting wet!

Information vital in understanding the state of shark, skate and ray populations can be gleaned from these. This simple survey is a great way of helping the Shark Trust and gives a focus to a visit to the shore at any time of the year. So if you’ve stepped out, identified and filled in your Great Eggcase Hunt recording form you should be proud that the products of your strandline adventures and natural curiosity have all directly helped the Shark Trust and more importantly, those little understood enigmatic elasmobranchs.

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