Northern Ireland

Shark tagging project for Northern Ireland coast

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Media captionShark tagging project for NI coast

Anglers are being encouraged to participate in a new project to help conserve sharks off the Northern Ireland coast.

They will be trained to tag and record species of shark, skate and ray to help build a picture of the areas which they use.

The information will be used to identify and protect key coastal zones for the endangered species.

There are around 20 species common in Irish waters.

Image caption A Dogfish caught off Rathlin Island

They include the modest Dogfish, up to the deepwater Porbeagle which can grow to two metres long.

The project is being run by Ulster Wildlife, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It will also encourage people who beach-comb to report findings of egg cases washed up on shore.

They'll be asked to log them on a website.

Image caption Shark, skate and ray egg cases will be recorded

Rebecca Hunter said it would all help build up a database of useful information.

"Once we have the information about where they are, the different areas they use and particularly important areas like their spawning grounds and their nursery areas for the pups, then that tagging information will help us identify the areas and then begin to put better protection and management measures in place.".

Image caption Children from Ballycastle Integrated Primary School are involved in the project

People who sign up for the tagging project will be given the equipment and training that they need.

Image caption Size and location of sharks like this Spurdog will be recorded

Different types of tag are used depending on the size of the shark.

Information on the size and sex of the fish is also recorded along with the location of the catch.

On our fishing trip we caught a number of Dogfish and three Spurdog sharks.

The Spurdog is so named because it has a couple of sharp spurs on its dorsal fin which can give a nasty cut, so careful handling is required.

Image copyright BBC Sport
Image caption Sea and shore anglers will be asked to help

Sharks are under pressure because they are slow-growing and have long gestation periods of up to two years.

They also take a break between producing pups.

The Spurdog lives for up to 70 years, but only starts reproducing after 20.

Those factors mean it can take a long time for them to bounce back from any adverse impact on their environment or numbers.