Shark identification training for fishermen

Small-spotted Catshark
Image caption Fishermen will be given species identification training

Fishermen are to be trained to identify different shark species in a project to help protect stocks.

Fishing representatives in Lancashire, the North East, Yorkshire, Cumbria and North East Lincolnshire are to receive guides to help classify species at sea.

The scheme, run by the Co-operative, the Shark Trust and commercial fishing industry, aims to improve the recording of species caught as by-catch.

It is hoped the data will help stocks be managed more sustainably.

The project will involve speaking to fishermen about the importance of recording individual species, rather than just noting them down as sharks or rays.

Those participating will also be given materials to help identify at-risk species such as the small-spotted catshark, the starry smoothhound shark and the cuckoo ray.

Ports involved include Grimsby, Hull, Bridlington, Scarborough, Whitby, Hartlepool, Blackpool, Fleetwood, Whitehaven and Maryport.

'Declined dramatically'

Director of conservation at the Shark Trust, Ali Hood, said many of the species of shark, skate and ray species in the North and Irish seas had experienced significant population declines in recent years.

She said the project would help efforts to build a sustainable future for shark fisheries.

Co-operative sustainable development manager Chris Shearlock said: "We know shark populations in British waters have declined dramatically in recent years but as little importance has traditionally been given to shark stocks compared to more commercial species, detailed information for individual species is hard to ascertain.

"We are providing species identification training with a range of support materials to ensure sharks, which are vital to the health of our fisheries, receive the level of protection they need."

Dr Judith Clarke, chairwoman of the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority said understanding of shark, ray and skate populations in the Irish Sea was currently insufficient to implement measures to protect the species.

She said better recording of catches would increase knowledge of fisheries.

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