Recently GAP2 Communications Officer, Katrina Borrow, took a trip across town to attend a ‘Shark By-Watch UK‘ showcase meeting in London, and learn more about collaborative research in action around UK inshore fisheries.
The Shark By-Watch UK project
Last week, GAP2 sent me to a meeting held by the Shark By-Watch UK project in the wonderful venue of Fishmonger’s Hall, above the old Billingsgate Fish Market by London Bridge.
The event was organised and hosted by CEFAS scientists Stuart Hetherington and Victoria Bendall who would be presenting the data findings and outcomes of the project, following two years of science-fisher collaboration around the topic of UK shark, skate and ray fisheries.
Around half of the delegates at the event were fishers who had been involved in the project from its outset, and it was a fascinating opportunity to hear the real range of issues faced by fishers in UK waters. Open discussion between presentations covered everything from quota restrictions, to fuel costs, and all focused around how better data can help the sustainable management and development of shark and ray fisheries in the UK.
Shark By-Watch UK describes itself as a forward-thinking pilot project, ‘supported by scientists, but led by fishermen’, and it was clear that there was an excellent working relationship, and real mutual respect, between the scientists involved in the project and the fishers who had provided much, if not all, of the data for the project.
The scheme involved the CEFAS scientists training fishermen to monitor and measure fish from key stocks of species such as thornback ray; smooth hound; spur dog; tope and blonde ray. The data collected was then interpreted by CEFAS, revealing fascinating insights into the seasonal and breeding habits of different species, and their numbers in UK waters – in several cases these were much higher than expected, with the thornback ray in particular appearing to be abundant in the Thames Estuary area. (The historical importance of this stock to UK fishers was aptly highlighted by a beautiful oil painting from 1767 hanging just outside the meeting room – a portrait of a thornback! See photos).
Working together for a ‘win-win’
By working together to uncover information like this, fishers and scientists create a ‘win-win’: conservation of key species is underpinned by better data, and fishers have the information needed to build a case for more accurate quota allocations, allowing them to sustainably fish abundant stocks and avoid those which need protection.
With this data in hand, the next step – as with the GAP2 project – is to engage policy makers, sharing the value of collaborative research across the full range of fisheries stakeholders. With the Shark By-Watch project this is already well underway, with representatives from national and local Government present at the event, as well as the IFCAs and a number of NGOs.
The great news is that the project looks set to continue for a further two years, spreading regionally around the UK and helping to disseminate the ‘best practice’ of fisher-led collaborative research.
Keep on bridging that GAP, By-Watch!
To find out more about the Shark By-Watch UK project, please click here.