“200 anglers tag sharks in the Solway”

Solway, South West Scotland, 18-20 June 2010
Around 200 sea anglers from all over the UK descended on the Solway over the weekend of 18th – 20th June to fish from the shore, kayaks and boats in an attempt to catch, tag and release as many shark species as possible.

They were taking part in Sharkatag, an annual, non-competitive event run by the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network (SSACN) which attracts anglers of all abilities, from total novices to those who have represented Scotland as Internationals.

Though the number of anglers was on a par with last year, the weather caused some problems and many of the boats opted to stay inshore, as a result, the number of fish tagged was about 20% down on last year. Initial analysis of the returns indicates that tope shark stock levels are rapidly declining in the region whilst smoothhound stocks are increasing.

According to Willie Kennedy, Stuart Creswell and Jamie Soons – organisers of the event :

“There were anglers from all over Scotland and England and although there were many anglers from previous tagging events, there were also a good number of first-timers and novices; everyone committed themselves to wholeheartedly to enjoying the occasion, the local environment and the great hospitality of the area.

“As everyone takes part at their own expense – this represents a tremendous personal commitment to their sport and to conservation. We are extremely grateful to them.”

Ian Burrett, SSACN’s Projects Director said :

“It comes as a surprise to many, but several species of shark in Scottish waters are as equally threatened with extinction as are the Panda or Siberian Tiger.

“SSACN’s tagging programmes gather valuable data which will provide the Scottish Government with some of the necessary research-based evidence to identify proactive opportunities to regenerate stocks and support sea angling.”

Sharkatag has two main objectives – the first is to highlight the urgent need for shark, ray and skate conservation in Scottish waters; the second, to raise the public awareness of sea angling and its contribution to the economies of many coastal communities.

This years Sharkatag will have created a direct economic benefit to the local community of somewhere close to £50 thousand. Overall, sea angling supports around 35,000 jobs and contributes more than £140 million / yr to the Scottish economy.

Scotland was once a premier European sea angling destination. It could be so again if the sea angling sector was treated on a par with the commercial sectors and if the species of fish of interest to anglers were managed to deliver more and bigger fish to the recreational sector.

Although stocks in The Solway are in decline, it is one of the few areas which still has reasonable quantities and Sharkatag shows what can be done where the angling opportunities still exist.