Shark & Skate Tagging Training
On the 1st of September, Ulster Wildlife HQ turned into a training ground for tagging sharks! The Living Seas team were joined by anglers, volunteers and Nature Skills Trainees for a tagging training course led by the Sea Deep Project Coordinator, Rebecca Hunter.
When we all got settled with our cups of tea, Rebecca began to tell us all about the project. We were given some background on the biology of sharks, skates and rays – known collectively as ‘elasmobranchs’. This gave us a better grasp of why and how we take care when tagging them, and ways in which they are adapted to fit in well into their environment.
For example, skates and rays do not have a rib cage to protect their vital organs, instead the pressure of the surrounding water acts as a support. Therefore, if they need to be lifted from the water, it is important to make sure that their underside is well supported. We also learnt some very interesting shark facts including their ability to detect electrical fields (a sixth sense!) and that they can in fact be hypnotised!
To get in some practice of tagging, we used a more accessible alternative to sharks… oranges! We looked at some of the different types of tags that are used, and then practiced tagging with both a canula and tagging gun.
Learning about their fascinating adaptations and how vulnerable they are has definitely made me see sharks in a different light. They are not the vicious killers that the media portrays them to be, but amazing creatures that need our help and protection. They are long-lived, mature slowly and have long pregnancies, making them very vulnerable in our seas. We don’t actually know very much about our elasmobranchs, so this tagging programme and other work in the project is so important to provide us with the necessary data that will allow us to put protection measures in place. We will be able to identify where these animals are, species information and spawning ground locations.
A big thank you to everyone who joined us – I think we all left with a lot more shark savvy! Don’t forget to submit your records on seadeepni.org/submit-tag-records and happy tagging!
Maeve Foley, Living Seas Trainee