Hannah Rudd – Policy and Advocacy Manager at the Angling Trust explains why the newly launched Shark Hub is a game changer for shark angling in the UK
Being top oceanic predators it’s hard for anglers not to get excited about sharks. From the stocky porbeagle that is reminiscent of its white shark cousin to the intricately patterned bull huss, these impressive fish capture the imaginations of shark anglers who head out to sea on the hope that they may achieve an encounter with one of these meticulously designed animals. Indeed, for many it is these first encounters that forge a life-long obsession with the sea and an intrigue and respect for these powerful fish. Yet it comes as a surprise to some the number of shark species we have here in the UK. Year round you can find at least 21 species in our waters, with many more migrating to our shores in the summer months and 11 inhabiting the deep sea.
Despite their notoriety, very little is known about these apex predators and many questions remain to be answered to inform their management and conservation. At current rates of decline, as a result of decades of overexploitation, we are at risk of losing these magnificent animals as they edge ever closer to extinction. It’s estimated that 100 million sharks are killed worldwide every year, with the latest research indicating that shark populations in the open oceans have plunged by 71% over the last half a century.
Much like the sharks themselves, shark anglers are also circumstance to unhelpful stereotypes that undermine the respect for these fish many have and the invaluable contribution to science and research that they can provide. Shark Hub UK seeks to address this through advocating the importance of knowledge and data gathered by the recreational angling community and providing shark anglers with the best resources on shark biology, ecology, and conservation.
Collaboration between science and angling
Teaming up the wealth of practical knowledge and insight into shark activity in the UK that recreational shark anglers possess with the skills and analytical tools available to the Shark Hub UK scientific team opens up a range of possibilities to secure a sustainable future for both sharks and shark angling in the UK. It is a collaborative partnership between researchers at Bournemouth University, the University of York and Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the Angling Trust, the Shark Angling Club of Great Britain, and the Sportfishing Club of the British Isles. Through its work Shark Hub UK also aims to support the recreational shark angling community with its development and make the sport accessible to a diverse range of people to improve participation. Never has there been a more exciting time for UK shark science as we are increasingly observing more and more top predators in our waters which provides the opportunity to learn more about these incredible animals.
As a collective Shark Hub UK has already achieved huge success for recreational shark angling over the last year, prior to its formalised partnership in June 2021. Through a series of shark-focussed Angling Trust Virtual Sea Angling Forums we have connected sea anglers with the expertise of researchers Dr. Georgia Jones, Dr. Simon Thomas and Dr. Bryce Stewart to engage sea anglers in shark research. These are available on the Angling Trust website and cover a range of topics including blue and porbeagle sharks, and best practice shark handling.
Earlier on in the year the Shark Hub UK partnership also launched a survey aimed at recreational shark anglers. This work is led by Dr. Georgia Jones of Bournemouth University and Dr. Bryce Stewart of the University of York, and the results will provide guidance for the partnerships work going forward. The survey is currently open but will close in early autumn 2021. It can be accessed via the Shark Hub UK website or via the link below and is open to all recreational sea anglers in the UK who have caught sharks, whether this intentionally or not, from smaller species like dogfish and smoothound to the big boys like the blues and porbeagles.
All elasmobranchs – sharks, rays, and skates – are slow growing fish, with a late sexual maturity in comparison with their bony counterparts and produce few pups with each reproductive cycle. With the populations of many species collapsing worldwide, every fish counts. When fishing for these spectacular fish it’s important to carry out best practice techniques and handling in the interests of fish welfare and maximising survival post-release. Boarding large sharks is damaging to their health as their gargantuan weight is unsupported by their flexible cartilaginous skeletons, putting pressure on their delicate organs that they depend on for their survival. In the interests of shark survival, it is strongly advised to release in the water at the side of the boat where possible. For more information on best practice, you can watch a presentation on shark handling for anglers with Dr. Simon Thomas on our website (see below).
Shark Hub UK is an exciting venture for both recreational shark anglers and shark scientists alike in the UK as we work toward shared objectives for a healthier future for our shark species. Ultimately, for shark angling to continue its important that we have a healthy shark population, and we all have a role to play in safeguarding their future.
Links for more information
For more information, please visit our website: https://anglingtrust.net/sea/shark-hub-uk/ and follow along with our social media:
Shark Angling Survey:
Angling Trust Sea Angling Forums: https://anglingtrust.net/sea/virtual-sea-angling-forum/
You can see Dr Bryce Stewart Dr Georgia Jones talking about sharks and the survey on You Tube here: https://youtu.be/xl6-FVhdbzA