Sorry that this article has taken so long in coming, but it should hope be the starting point of something exciting that Katrin and I are planning.
Last summer I decided to try and organise some shark tagging trips around Liverpool Bay. After plenty of searching I found a fantastic charter local called Tuskar (www.Tuskarcharters.co.uk) with skipper Stan Dickinson. Stan’s boat, fishing skills and knowledge of where to find sharks in the local area was vital, but I still lacked two things, money for the charter and tags for the sharks. In a search for tags I stumbled upon the UK Shark Tagging Program (http://www.ukshark.co.uk/) ran by Dr Ken Collins of Southampton University. Dr Collins kindly gave us the tags needed and we in return give send the UKSTP the data. This meant the only missing part of the puzzle was money. To account for this I decided to offer place on the trips to the public and get people involved in work I hoped to carry out. I must admit I was absolutely amazed by the response, I had many more applications to come on the three planned trips than I could possibly take and I was able to fill up two trips alone in a couple of hours!
|Our wonderful vessel, Tuskar.|
Our main target for tagging was tope (Galeorhinus galeus) a major predator of mackerel in Liverpool Bay and we had arranged our first tagging trip for early August. Sadly, the weather got in the way and we were forced reschedule. Unfortunately this meant that some people couldn’t make the trip, luckily we were able access our back up list to fill the boat!
|The first crew!|
|Shark! A small spotted catshark.|
We set off eventually on the 9th of August in the morning fog, the water was however as flat as we could have hoped for. We left our start point at Priory Wharf in Birkenhead and headed out of the Mersey northwards to the waters just off the Ribble estuary. On the way we saw a great deal of grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) and a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). As we drew closer to our destination the fog began to clear leaving a cloudless sky and a truly beautiful day for being at sea. We began by getting our bait caught, mackerel. Probably the easiest fish there is catch. We caught our mackerel, prepped our rods and set out our homemade chum. Sadly the tope where just not biting and our only sharks where lesser spotted catsharks (Scyliorhinus canicula). While it was a wonderful day, sadly we didn’t find our targets, despite a range of other fish caught.
|The second crew|
|Me with a starry smooth hound|
|The final crew!|
So was it to be third time lucky? After some date rearrangement and some alteration with our guests, we set out on our final trip on the 31st of August, the last day of the season. The weather was on the very edge of what we could feasibly go out in and it was rather rough. As we set up I noticed one or two of our guests were feeling a little under the weather, which was the case for our whole trip. Our luck was in when it came to fishing though. We were catching sharks. Sadly we were catching sharks that were only just under our tagging size threshold! That was until Blackpool and Fylde College’s head of science, Jean Wilson, caught a common smooth hound that was big enough. There was a lot of excitement as we filled in our first card of the season and Jean tagged her first ever shark. We let the shark go, watching it swim away we felt elated. Sadly while we caught a couple of extra sharks, we failed to find any more sharks large enough to tag. We returned to Priory Wharf pleased with the day we had, finally achieving success in our last trip of the year.
|Jean with out tagged common smooth hound!|
I am looking forward now to next summer when we hope to have at least 10 trips and more success with the sharks we after. Thank you to all who came along, without you this could never have happened. Next year this trip will be part of what we hope will be a successful new charity for studying the marine life of Liverpool Bay and educating the public about local species (Liverpool Bay Marine Life Trust). We are still in process of setting up and as of yet lack a website, but these will be coming soon.
|A pretty little starry smoothie!|
For those interested in joining us next year, please contact me: Merseysidesharktagging@gmail.com
Thank you! Matt.