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Save our Sharks

Written By: Ian Burrett
On Date: 19/9/2005

Save-Our-Sharks is a new UK based society, that has been formed by shark anglers who are concerned about the welfare of our native shark population along with our skate & ray population. However, we welcome membership from all those that share a common interest in shark conservation.

SOS “Save our Sharks” was born out of a threat from commercial fisherman, to start longlining for the Tope and Smoothound and exporting their fins to the Asian Market.

SOS is interested in all UK sharks, including Porbeagle, Spur Dog, Rays and Skate but the emphasis at first, is to get the Tope and Smoothound listed as recreational species only.

It is worth remembering that the Tope and Smoothound have no history of commercial interest as up till now they have had no financial worth. To get them listed as recreational species wouldn’t cause any job losses or hardship.

The reasons for wishing to have them listed as recreational species only are fourfold,

1) The Tope and Smoothound are much sought after; by recreational anglers as they are renowned for their fight and enjoyment they give and no wonder then that these recreational shark species are treated with care and respect when caught by anglers who almost all return every fish they catch. And increasingly the fish are returned with tags so that more can be learned of their lives and their important place as apex predators in vulnerable ecosystems.

2) It is estimated that the Tope and Smoothound shoals would be eradicated in 3-5 years. The removal of an Apex predator can cause serious consequences many years down the line, as the ecosystem is so finely balanced.
In the late 1980’s the commercial fleet tackled the abundant shoals of Spur Dog, by longlining methods. The shoals could be found in huge shoals 5 miles across, all along the Western coasts of England, Wales and Scotland. The Shoals were decimated in just 5 years. There are just a few pockets left in the deep lochs around the west coast of Scotland. The effect in Luce Bay was devastating. The whiting shoals flourished and turned to the small immature flatfish, as a result there are only a few flatfish left in Luce Bay.

Removing Whales from the rich waters, around Alaska 50 years ago, are having serious consequences to the numbers of Sea Lions. The whales were fished out; this provided ample Krill for the Pollack shoals, which as they prospered, devoured the Herring shoals which happens to be the staple food for the sea Lions. No Herring, No Sea Lions.

3) It is not just pleasure that these species provide, but they are also major provider of jobs, and provide a huge, much needed boost to local economies, particularly in rural areas. Recreational Sea Angling is Big Business on which many livelihoods are dependent; charter boat skippers, tackle shop and tackle manufacturing staff, bait diggers and bait suppliers, hotels, petrol stations,………..the list goes on, certainly many thousands of jobs, often in those rural coastal communities where there is little scope for diversification in employment and economic activity.

4) The Tope is listed in The IUCN Red List, which classes it as an endangered. species.

Prime Ministers strategy unit, in its Net Benefits report stated last October that 2 million people went sea angling in England and Wales in 2002, and that the sector is worth £1.3 billion annually.

These figures are sustainable and will increase as fish stocks increase. Anglers will invest huge amounts of money into their Sport, a 50 pound Tope is probably worth hundreds of pounds to a local economy. The fish will be caught, photographed, tagged and returned, to be caught again. The same fish would raise about £10 at a fish market, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

This site is in its infancy but over the next few months we will be developing areas that will be of interest to all those that appreciate our sharks. In the meantime please feel free to post on our forum and sign our Guest Book.

Ian Burrett

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