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Pat Smith Database partner with NOAA to support project to tag 2000 blue sharks in UK waters

The Pat Smith Database are proud to be one of the UK partners supporting the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Fisheries Apex Predators Tagging Program to deploy up to 2,000 conventional tags on mature blue sharks in UK waters this year.

ICCAT are also supporting the program by providing five pop-up satellite archival tags (PSAT’s).

The project objective is to identify changes in timing and location of migratory corridors related to blue shark mating and pupping. It also aims to answer questions regarding the existence of a potential third Atlantic stock of blue sharks in the Mediterranean.

As part of the project there will be two workshops on July 10th this year. The first will be held during the day at the Marine Biological Association UK (MBA) in Plymouth, when our own Dr Simon Thomas will be one of the presenters.

The second event will be in the evening at the Looe Heritage Centre and will focus on the practical elements of NOAA’s tagging programme and how you can support it going forward.

For the evening event we specifically encourage charter skippers and anglers to come along but if you are interested in attending either event please contact Dr. Bryce Stewart at for the MBA event and John McMaster for the evening event in Looe, or if you are interested tagging, at

The UK recreational sharking community have a long history of being associated with shark research. One of the earliest recorded activities being in 1959 when the then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Research Department (MAFF) at Lowestoft approached the Shark Angling Club of Great Britain (SACGB) to tag sharks on their behalf.

The objective of the project was to study growth rates and movements of blue sharks. Over 200 blue sharks were tagged that year.

One was tagged and a few hours later it was caught by a different boat and released for the second time. There was a 5 shilling reward for anyone who returned a tag of which there were three kinds.

The first was a yellow disc about 15mm diameter which was secured to the sharks dorsal fin using wire. The second was triangular wire clip which had a yellow tag attached which was then fastened to the dorsal fin. The last one was a yellow dart like streamer about 200mm long and about as thick as a knitting needle. The point was barbed which was intended to secure it when it was inserted into the flesh behind the dorsal fin. In practise the barbs were ineffective so the streamers were instead pushed through a hole in the sharks dorsal fin and tied in a knot.

None of these tags were ever recovered in UK waters but one was recovered off the coast of Brittany. The low recovery result surprised the scientists, skippers and the anglers with some holding the view that since yellow was a colour which attracted sharks, they were bitten off by other sharks.

The UK shark angling community formally adopted a policy of catch and release for all recreationally caught sharks in 1994. This also applies to those caught in competitions as an estimated weight is calculated using the length and girth of the shark.  Prior to this many skippers and anglers routinely released sharks which were too small to be used to qualify for SACGB membership or if the angler had already caught a larger one.

Many UK skippers now release their sharks in the water unless its in the interests of the sharks welfare to board and then release it. Examples would be to remove commercial fishing gear or a banding strip from the shark.

The UK recreational shark angling community, or as we like to describe them, Experts by Experience, have a wealth of knowledge of the species and work continuously to improve the welfare outcomes and handling of sharks.

If you would like more information on UK recreational shark handling protocol please contact us

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