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Funding Raises Awareness of Shark and Ray Fisheries

21 September 2012

UK - A grant from the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) is helping to empower commercial fishermen to research the inshore shark and ray fisheries of the southern North Sea (ICES division IVc).

This work aims to provide data and information on by-catch, discarding and stock status, to better inform policy decisions.

Funding of almost £200,000 from the EFF has been used towards establishing a research partnership between inshore fishermen from East Anglia and Kent with scientists from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), which aims to support more sustainable shark and ray fisheries.

Fishermen are playing an instrumental role in the research programme, Shark By-Watch UK incorporates workshops to share and develop knowledge, tagging and sampling of shark and ray species plus a scheme to share experience and information.

Through start-up workshops, which took place in spring 2012, the fishing industry was able to voice the important issues to them, which have become the foundation of this research programme. The fishermen chose to look at the current status of Thames Estuary thornback ray – lost and forgotten shark and ray fisheries off the East Anglian coast – and also to demonstrate the sustainable approach of the traditional fishing method of longshoring.

Following a tender process, seven under-10-metre fishing vessels from across East Anglia and Kent have been employed to implement fishermen-lead surveys. This involves a co-operative tagging programme, where fishermen are trained to tag sharks and rays, which will be returned to the sea.

Future activity will also include a trial of by-watch record cards and a voluntary logbook scheme, which will allow fishermen to record and then upload information on to the Shark By-Watch UK website (www.sharkbywatch.org).

The website is currently being developed, including an interactive mapping tool that will allow fishermen to directly access historic shark and ray tagging data as well as their own tag release data during the course of the project.

Project Co-ordinator Victoria Bendall, a specialist in fish behaviour at Cefas, said: “The scheme has been very well received by the industry and is proving to be successful. We are now undertaking the fieldwork/tagging element of the study, which is directed by the fishermen, to investigate areas where they see a lack of scientific knowledge and understanding.”

Graeme High, EFF England Deliver and Control Manager, said: “Such forward thinking measures are key to developing sustainable, economically viable fisheries and we were consequently keen to support this scheme.

“It is hoped this approach to research will promote greater industry involvement in future shark and ray assessments and will help determine practical ways forward for conserving local stocks.

“This work may also help fishermen to learn new skills – such as becoming competent tagging operatives.”



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