A shark that was tagged in the Isle of Man has been recaptured off the coast of France.
Charity Manx Wildlife Trust has been undertaking its shark tagging programme since 2013 with the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture.
The aim of the project is to train up experienced anglers to tag small sharks, rays and skates in Manx waters with a small streamer tag that displays a unique code and return contact information.
The anglers also note biological data before releasing the shark back into the water.
The hope is the shark is recaptured at another point in time and/or location, helping to monitor the movements of these sharks, their distribution, abundance, and potentially growth rates if the animal is remeasured.
In August last year, a tope shark was tagged by the crew of the fishing boat ‘Casey J’ off Niarbyl and was recaptured in the Bay of Biscay, France, three months later.
The MWT says the report came in from a local fisherman in the area and it was ‘great to see the support and collaboration that these projects get from the fishing industry’.
‘This is only the second recapture since the project began, but it is a long-term, rather than a short-term programme,’ the charity said.
‘However, the previous recapture was also a long-distance swimmer being recaptured in the Netherlands in September 2018, having been tagged in May of that year.
‘This shows us the huge distances these small sharks are willing to make.’
Marine conservation officer Lara Howe said: ‘We were aware of the large distances basking sharks are travelling but we had no idea about our small shark species.
‘It highlights that protection of our shark species goes beyond our waters and that marine species know no boundaries.
‘It’s incredibly important work if we are to develop and implement conservation strategies – we need to think regionally, not just locally.’
Little is known about elasmobranchs, the sharks, skates and rays, in Manx waters so the work is ‘critical’ in the charity’s understanding of their life cycles, and how it manages the island’s populations for biodiversity, recreational angling or commercial fishing purposes.
Through the tagging programme the MWT is beginning to identify key areas where these sharks can be found and this could help to identify new marine nature reserves into the future and enable the charity to protect the species better.
Environment Minister Clare Barber said: ‘The DEFA has supported this project for several years, recognising the important role that small sharks play in our marine ecosystem.
‘These are long-lived animals with complex life cycles that we need to understand better if we are to maintain and manage their populations.
‘The department also recognises the economic contributions of recreational angling for the island, estimated to be around £2m annually, and the role of small sharks within that sector since the Isle of Man is something of a recognised regional hot-spot for recreational tope angling.
‘This “catch and release” practice can be a significant contribution to local tourism and combines very well with the shark-tagging project.’
To date the project has tagged more than 450 small sharks and it’s hoped the MWT will continue to increase that number as the programme grows and more anglers get involved.
Tagging work in 2022 was sponsored by TLC Business Solutions Ltd and will continue in 2023 with new sponsorship from Microgaming PlayItForward.
If anyone is interested in providing additional funding support, or getting trained up for tagging, get in touch with Lara at [email protected]