INTRODUCTION TO THE UK SHARK TAGGING PROGRAMME

The programme is designed to tag the majority of the shark species found within UK coastal waters

The UK SHARK TAGGING PROGRAMME was the first 'Angler Driven' Programme of its type in the U.K. The programme aims at all our larger species of shark, from Common Smooth Hound (Mustelus mustelus) and Starry Smooth Hound (Mustelus asterias) to Blue Sharks (Prionace glauca) Porbeagle Sharks (Lamna nasus) and Mako Sharks (Isurus oxyrinchus ). In fact the programme looks to address 8 primary species of shark that have rarely been studied in any depth, with the tagging programme providing the 'Foundation of Data'. With all bar one of the species being live-bearers, and thus especially vulnerable to over-exploitation.

The programme was a long time in arriving in the U.K. - 10 years or more! Having seen first hand the benefits of programmes in Ireland, read of the works on the NMFS along the east coast of America with their Apex Predator Programme; "why haven't we got a tagging scheme in the U.K.?" - became the obvious question! The Irish programme organised by the Central Fisheries Board, was aimed at reviewing the socio-economic benefits of sharks in their waters with regard to tourist anglers. The American programme studies sharks as part of an ongoing management of a valuable resource both to commercial and recreational factors.

Both these programmes are tagging sharks to monitor life cycles of their fish in local and distant waters - so that through greater understanding of the fish they can develop the best fisheries management policies. Without the detailed knowledge of various shark species, very little would be done to conserve their populations, in healthy numbers. Here is where tagging comes in, it is the only non-destructive study method available. With recreational sea anglers playing a major role in the whole operation 74% of all the 6000+ Blue Sharks tagged in the NMFS Apex Predator Programme in the last 20+ years have been by anglers. No agency, government or otherwise can afford to pay scientists/marine biologists to effectively tag and release that number of fish! Anglers do it for free, and out of their love for the fish and for the sporting nature of their fish

Sue and Jeri Drake started attending conservation workshops aimed at sharks in 1990 and it soon became apparent that, unless anglers took the initiative and developed a programme themselves it would never happen. Discussions over the years ranged from threats to sharks in various oceans, possible breeding ground of Great Whites in the Med, tourist diving with Whale Sharks, but never the real problems of sharks in our own waters,. As a non-quota food fish species they were of little interest to MAFF (now DEFRA), who had higher priorities on their limited budget, and anyway sharks are not a major food fish when compared with Cod or Plaice

So, it has been left to the anglers! Sue and Jeri Drake developed an outline proposal for a Nationwide UK Shark Tagging Programme as far back as 1991, and have basically been seeking funding for it ever since. 1998 saw one of those rare moment of opportunity come along; with the motive and means being all in the right place at the right time! So the deed was done! The 1999 Preliminary Shark Tagging Programme (Tope) was born. This project was designed as a 'stepping-stone' to the full scale Nationwide Programme. Funded by WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) it aimed to assess whether recreational sea anglers could tag sharks in U.K. waters - mainly Tope. Focussed around the Isle of Wight and the sports fishery operated by the Langstone Harbour Professional Boatmans Association to the east of the island. The project certainly proved a success - UK sea anglers could tag sharks!

During 1999, through the interest generated by the Preliminary Project, Sue and Jeri Drake refined the earlier proposal to accommodate a system of 'catalyst style' funding from WWF. For the first year the balance of funding was donated by Angling Trade Association (ATA) with supplementary contributions by EFSA (Executive), EFSA (UK) and South West Federation of Sea Anglers (SWFSA). The funding from WWF over three years (2000, 2001 and 2002) was on a declining basis.

SHORT AND LONG TERM DEVELOPMENTS


Tagging of sharks will provide a number of benefits to the whole of the recreational sea angling community, through demonstration of anglers conservation efforts to greater input in development of fisheries management. While the programme is being administered by Sue and Jeri Drake, data from the tagging programme will provide the raw data for scientific studies and analytical assessments

Some of the developments will come in the form of greater knowledge thus giving sea anglers a greater/ better understanding of the habits of their sporting species of sharks. Short and long term migrations, population dynamics and stock composition, all aspects that we are currently only going on anecdotal reports. Information loosely gathered from numerous and possibly 'inaccurate' sources. The tagging programme, through accurate data recording (by the taggers) will provide the evidence to dispell some of the folk-lore surrounding our larger shark species.

From our own observations we have dispelled some of the myths, but only for our own personal consumption; like "Blues only feed once a day!". Well we have records that show Blue Sharks feeding more than three times, and on all those occasions there were hooks attached to the baits, the same tagged fish kept on returning. It is like one of the small results that came out of the 1999 Tope Tagging Project; before we started, the skippers all said that they caught all their Tope over the 'spring tides' and at slack water. When in fact, they caught them evenly over all tides and at all states of the tide; it was only by analysing the return cards that we found that there were no real tidal of time corralations on their catches.

Back to the UK Shark Tagging programme, the programme will be free to enter, subject to available funding, and available to all disciplines of sea angler, be they shore, small boat, club or charter anglers. Though the programme will aim to provide the greatest coverage through charter boats and clubs, as this will give the best concentrated use of the limited number of tags available each year. The notional boundaries set down are that the programme will cover all of England, Wales, Scotland and various islands


The Programme will accumulate the record card data on a single computer (that is NOT linked to the internet), and this data will NOT be distributed to any group or body with any commercial fishing interests. The data will never be used to discredit recreational sea angling, nor will it be distributed freely around the 'marine biology' community. The control of data will be closely guarded, and only available in its 'raw and total' format to a limited number of 'vetted' biologists. A lot of effort you might ask, but we wish to alay any fears amongst potential taggers, that the data might be used against sea angling. This was a fear/worry raised by a number of charter skippers when we ran the 1999 Tope Tagging Project, as they did not wish to contribute to a project that might ultimately damage their 'Tope Fishery'. Continued monitoring of catch/tag returns will be carried out each year, with an annual report being 'published'; with copies going to all 'registered taggers' and abridged copies to the sea angling press for onward publication. Further studies will be carried out from time to time on the whole database by selected 'marine biologists', who will be working directly for the tagging programme, their reports will also be made available to the taggers. Lastly, when a 'tagged shark' is recaptured, the original 'tagger' will be notified that his/her fish has been recaptured, along with any quickly derived data, like days at liberty, distance traveled, weight/length gain, etc; this we feel is an intrinsic part of the Programme to full involve the 'tagger' with their shark.

HOW TO REGISTER.


For those interested in joining the UK Shark Tagging Programme, we would like for them to either contact us via:

Postal Mail at: UK Shark Tagging Programme, SOC, Southampton SO14 3ZH

Phone or Fax: (+44) 023 8059 6010 .

e-mail: UK Shark Tagging Programme

Whereupon we will forward a simple registration form, this is particularly pertinant to charter skippers, as we will be compiling entries on this web site. When replying by e-mail please let us have your full postal address so we can send you the relevant paperwork. Please note however that should you register as a tagger and tag no sharks within 2 years of the date of issue of the tags, we will request the return of the tagging kit issued.



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