A new group seeking to boost the development of sportfishing around the British coast has been formed by sea anglers to stop the killing of two common species of sharks, tope and smoothound.

 

This will effectively reserve these fish for sea anglers and follows another plan also aiming to increase sportfishing by managing stocks of bass (the bass management plan*) to allow them to grow larger and more plentiful around Britain.

 

Save our Sharks (SOS), and the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society (BASS), want  the new Marine Bill expected next year to meet their demands.

 

Ian Burrett, a 50-year-old charter skipper in Drummore, near Stranraer, Scotland, who has been tagging sharks since 1992, said Save Our Sharks was formed after recent allegations that UK commercial fishermen were planning to start catching sharks and exporting the fins to Asia. 

 

“We are relieved this particular threat seems to have disappeared,” he said.

“but we want to prevent similar ones in future.  That such a slaughter could even be contemplated is an example of why Britain’s fish stocks are a shadow of what they were. 

 

“Our sharks could be eradicated in 3 years to 5 years by commercial fishing. 

 

”Tope and smoothound have no history of commercial value in the UK and to get them listed as recreational species wouldn’t cause any job losses or hardship.” 

 

“Shark fishing is an integral part of the current growth in sea angling on which a growing number of livelihoods depend, particularly in rural areas,” Mr.

Burrett added.

 

“Anglers will invest huge amounts of money in their sport.  A 50 lb. tope caught and released may be worth hundreds of pounds to a local economy but only £10 at a fish market.  And when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

 

Recreational anglers treated sharks with care and almost every one caught was returned alive to the sea.  Many were tagged to help learn more about  their importance as apex predators.  It was not generally realised, Mr. Burrett said, that marine ecosystems could go out of balance and not necessarily to the benefit of commercial species, if apex predators were removed.

 

SOS is also concerned with protecting other UK native shark species including porbeagle, spur dogs, rays and skate.  It plans to develop activities of interest for both shark anglers and people who just care about sharks and the seas. 

 

It can  be contacted at www.save-our-sharks.org by e-mail at ianburrett@btinternet.org or telephone 01776 840 346.  Mr. Burrett is also the Scottish co-ordinator for the Sea Anglers’ Conservation Network.

 

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