Little is known about most of the biology and ecology of 26 elasmobranch species present in Welsh waters. There has been progress in understanding commercially targeted species, but the other 18 species are extremely data-limited, including 10 of which are listed on the Section 7 species list of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016.
Without data on distribution, abundance, seasonality, life-history traits, and associated habitats, it is challenging to safeguard these species.
Our fisher engagement programme hopes to collect a range of data on historical and current presence of elasmobranchs in Wales to better understand these species (find out more in working with fishers).
An array of benthic BRUVs are being deployed on the seafloor in summer 2022 to gather information on both fish and habitat assemblages within PLAS SAC. Alongside this, local charter fishers will be trained in deploying BRUVs, to see what species are present at their favourite marks. Footage will be analysed by scientists and citizen scientists through the Instant Wild platform.
We are taking regular water samples across the CBAE SAC to investigate the presence and seasonality of elasmobranchs in the region. eDNA samples will also be collected during each BRUV deployment in PLAS, to compare what is seen via video and via eDNA analysis.
In collaboration with the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP), Aberyswth University and University College Dublin, we carried out two Angelshark dissection events in Wales and Ireland to gather vital biological information on these Critically Endangered species.
More information to follow soon.
Although it is extremely rare, strandings of dead Angelsharks can occur around the coast.
Post-mortem examination and analysis of samples generates vital data related to the cause of death, health of the individual (including disease and contamination), diet, reproductive patterns, population structure, as well as connectivity to other populations across the East Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea.
One of the Project SIARC aims is to enable new partnerships and collaborative research by bringing together elasmobranch scientists and NGOs across Wales. To do this, we are developing a Project SIARC Research Group, to meet quarterly, to share recent findings, expertise, experience and current research between organisations.
Project SIARC is a multidisciplinary project working with fishers, citizen scientists, researchers, local communities and government to safeguard sharks, skates and rays and support a green recovery in Wales.