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Welcome to Shark By-Watch UK - where fisherman and scientists work together in partnership for sustainable shark, skate and ray fisheries.

Sharks, skates and rays (collectively known as elasmobranchs) are important to UK fisheries, but despite this we still know relatively little about them compared to other common commercial species like cod and plaice.  This hampers stock assessments, and can result in the adoption of more precautionary management approaches, often viewed as overly punitive and ineffective by some sectors of the fishing industry. There is therefore a strong need to gain a better understanding of regional shark, skate and ray stocks to better inform management plans for the benefit of both the fishery and our fishers.

Shark By-Watch UK is a project where fishermen and scientists work together to improve fishing practices and knowledge for sustainable shark, skate and ray fisheries. In the first phase of the project, a series of workshops were held in which we actively shared expertise to develop fishery surveys and tagging schemes to find out when, where and how elasmobranchs are caught (as target and non-target species), how many survive capture and how we can build sustainable shark, skate and ray fisheries for the long-term.

 

Shark By-Watch UK 2

The project is now in its second phase - Shark By-Watch UK 2 - and is running three field studies in different fisheries across the UK. Building on the collaborative work undertaken in the first phase, we are gathering new information to be fed into how the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is implemented in the UK.

The Common Fisheries Policy is the over-arching fisheries policy for the European Union, and recent reforms of this policy include new measures to tackle fishing discards. Discards are the portion of a catch of fish which is not retained on board during commercial fishing operations - usually because it is not a target species of the fishery. Under new measures called the landing obligation, discards will be banned, meaning fishers face a new challenge of increasing the selectivity of their operations to reduce by-catch (the term for non-target fish caught before being discarded), or being able to sell all the species landed.

Linking directly in to this international policy driver, which will have ramifications nationally for UK fishers, Shark By-Watch UK 2 will investigate innovative methods for reducing bycatch and dead-discarding of threatened sharks, skates and rays. Additionally, the project will look into management plans for the development of a sustainable thornback ray fishery in the Thames Estuary.