Each November SAMS hosts a public shark tagging event run by the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network (SSACN). Events include classroom and shore fishing sessions and use of the SAMS research vessel when available.
The stock status of many species of sharks such as the spurdog, as well as larger species such as common skate, is of concern. These populations have generally been reduced to low levels as a result of targeted fishing and by-catch. Tagathons aim to raise public awareness of the catch-tag-and release programs run by the SSACN.
Over the last few years over 5,000 sharks have been tagged and released back to sea including 1,981 common skate, 1,986 tope and 790 spurdog. Anglers re-catching the tagged fish are asked to report the fish tag number, fish length (or weight) and location where the fish was re-caught before returning the fish to the sea.
The data are beginning to provide a fascinating picture of how the animals move around the UK coasts as well as providing new estimates of longevity and growth rates. Spurdog for example appear to be highly mobile, sometimes moving between the west of Scotland and the North Sea, whilst common skate are more sedentary. This sort of information is vital for the design of effective conservation measures e.g. protection areas may be more effective for less-mobile species.
Sharks and rays can be damaged if handled incorrectly and the SSACN is constantly working to promote good practice in fish handling and welfare. Training events for sea anglers, the general public and schools are regularly provided.
More information can be found at www.tagsharks.com.