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Fishing Reels and Rods

Shark Angling UK FAQs

  • Who are we?
    We are a team of scientists who use electronic tracking tags to understand more about all sorts of wildlife. We use tags to track birds, turtles, bony fish and sharks both off the United Kingdom and abroad. Our research shows where animals go, what they do when they get there, and ultimately shows how they can best be managed. The project is led by Matthew Witt and Lucy Hawkes, and Francesco Garzon is the Project Officer. Tom Horton and Owen Exeter are students studying for their PhDs who also work to deliver the project. We are specialists in how to use tags and how to analyse and map tracking data (and more!), but we are not fishermen, which is why we want to work with you!
  • Don’t you just want to stop all shark fishing?
    No, we are not and will not be campaigning for a ban on recreational shark fishing. The overall aim of the project is to minimise negative impact to sharks, whilst maximising potential for growth and socio-economic gain in a popular fishery. We understand that sharks have ‘value’ in many different forms, and that skippers and anglers who recreationally catch sharks value sharks as much as we do. Our overall intent is to work together to ensure that the fishery is sustainable, and that participants have a set of scientifically backed best practices to operate by that all have contributed to developing.
  • What are the tags used in the study?
    We have three different types of tags, all of which give us slightly different insights into the sharks’ behavior and movement. These tags are either transmitting (i.e. they transmit their data and do not need to be recovered) or pop-up and drift tags (i.e. they need to be recovered to access the data stored on the tag). All of the tags will record the depth of the animal whilst the tag is attached, which is how we understand whether a shark is swimming or sinking. If you are interested in learning more about the different tags, please visit the “Tagging UK" page of our website.
  • How do you tag sharks?
    All these tags need to be physically attached to the shark and our attachment method is the same for sharks whether in the water or on deck. We have both short handle (if you board your sharks) and long handle (if the shark is left in the water alongside your boat) tagging devices that we can switch between to suit your fishing practice. The tagging process only takes a few seconds, and is designed to minimize disturbance to you, your anglers, and the overall fishing process.
  • Do you need me to change my fishing method to accommodate tagging?
    No, you do not need to change anything about your fishing method – we will adapt to suit your practice.
  • What data do the tags collect?
    The tags record 4 types of data: 1) depth and temperature recordings at various intervals throughout the deployment, 2) light levels, which are used to infer the location of the shark once a day, 3) acceleration along three axes (like the steps your watch counts), which can be used to estimate behaviour and energy expenditure, and 4) fate of the shark (dead/eaten/alive at the end of tag deployment). The tag decides if the shark has survived by looking to see if it continued to swim up and down through the water column, and that it saw daytime and nighttime (suggesting it wasn’t inside something else that had eaten it!).
  • How will you use the data?
    By combining the data from the tag and general information on the fishing process (e.g. what type of hook was used, how long the shark was on the line for and where the shark was handled), we hope to create a picture of what the ideal fishing conditions are for shark experience and survival. This is information can then be translated into best practices that anglers can use to refine their methods to ensure higher welfare standards for captured sharks. Some tags will also record important information on the movements and dive behaviour of sharks for which very little is known (e.g. thresher sharks), and these data will be used to increase our knowledge of these species in UK waters.
  • Can I have access to the results of the study?
    Of course! We will do our best to keep you updated on the data we get from individual sharks captured on your boat and will send you summaries of them once all the data is collected and analysed. You will also be able to see similar summaries for all the sharks tagged in the project on our website ( At the end of the project, we will put together bigger summaries with the overall results of the study, and these will also be shared with you so that you can see what information we collected.
  • How many staff need to be on the boat?
    We will normally ask for 2 members of staff to be on board, but never more than that. We want to minimize the number of staff we ask you to take on board, as we realize that any space we take could potentially be occupied by a paying customer.
  • Do you offer compensation for boat days?
    No, we cannot offer compensation or salary.
  • Will my name/company or my anglers’ names be associated with or mentioned in write ups about this project?
    No, this is not our aim. We promise to make any data we collect completely anonymous, so that none of the fishing areas or shark fates can be traced back to individual skippers or anglers. This is something we continually welcome feedback on, so if there is something you are particularly concerned about then please feel free to contact us to discuss it. We will only keep record of your details for personal communications (and then only if you agree) – all other data on the fishing process will be completely anonymized.
  • How will you avoid showing everyone where I fish?
    In all our maps, we will screen the locations the fish are released in to make it impossible to determine your precise fishing locations. If you have particular concerns on this aspect, we can completely redact your sharks’ map from public display.
  • What if your tag shows that my shark died?
    In the unfortunate event a shark we tagged on your vessel dies, you don’t have to worry about us reporting this. Casualties are an unlikely but possible outcome of the practice, and we understand this. We will still need to produce a summary of the data we get from the shark, and this will be available online, but your name and company name will never be associated with any of the outputs. There is no law regulating this practice either, so you don’t need to worry about any type of repercussion. Preliminary research suggests that post-release mortality is low in recreational fisheries, and that typically more than 80% of sharks survive. We suspect that most sharks will survive angling (we’d love to hear what you think about this!), but if any don’t survive, that will help us to make recommendations about updating minor elements of practice in the industry.
  • Are you going to report me?
    Absolutely not. At no point of the project will we be “judging” your fishing methods and we will never report you or your anglers to anyone. There are no set rules or legal requirements about how shark fishing should be conducted, and so there is no authority to report to. Our main aim is to find out how the fishing practice can be updated to minimise negative impacts on sharks, but we do not know exactly what that means yet and so we cannot tell you what you should and should not be doing.
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