Full version of a story which first appeared in The Herald on 19 November 2008

SCOTTISH sea anglers have tagged more than 20 of a critically endangered species of shark during a unique two-day marathon aimed at putting pressure on the Government to create special marine reserves to help protect dwindling stocks in UK waters.

About 100 volunteers gathered in lochs Sunart in West Lochaber and Etive in Argyllshire last weekend to undertake the tagging of spurdog, a breed of small shark commonly called “rock salmon” in food shops, and noted for its slow growth and longevity.

Ayr’s harbourmaster, Stuart Creswell with a tagged 16lb Loch Sunart spurdog
Ayr’s harbourmaster, Stuart Creswell with a tagged 16lb Loch Sunart spurdog

Among those captured, tagged and returned was specimen of over 21 lbs – laying claim to a new Scottish boat record.

Steve Bastiman, chairman of the Scottish Sea Anglers Conservation Network, a vocal charity pressure group, said yesterday:

“By any standards, the event was an outstanding success and is a testament to the commitment and dedication of sea anglers in Scotland. We estimate the volunteers spent £20,000 of their own money to deliver the first hard evidence to the Government in Edinburgh that these lochs hold a resident breeding population of spurdog which must be protected.”

Although carefully weighed, witnessed, tagged and documented, the 21lb specimen catch will remain unofficial because the rules governing sea angling records effectively mean the fish has to be killed. The SSACN estimates that the shark was 40-60 years old.

In less than 12 years the biomass of the sharks, which once congregated in shoals up to five miles square, has shrunk to a mere 5% in the north-east Atlantic, due, conservationists say to intense overfishing by France, Ireland Norway, and the UK.

The anglers are pressing Scottish fisheries minister, Richard Lochhead, for the creation of EU-designated Marine Protected Areas for the species in the two west coast sea lochs together with the Firth of Lorne and Sound of Mull to allow the species to regenerate.

An estimated 50 spurdog were caught and released during the weekend although final figures have still to be collated. The minimum tagging size was 7lbs. All data will be analysed by the UK Shark Tagging Programme. The conservationists now plan to raise £25,000 to launch a satellite tagging study to monitor movements of the spurdog, The “tagathon” may be repeated next year.

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  1. ‘Sharkatag’ weekend announced  03/02/2009

    […] the Isle of Whithorn in the south-west.  The organisers are building on the huge success of their spurdog tagging weekend last November when more than 85 anglers participated in lochs Sunart and […]

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