Join jaw-some shark events

Coast lovers and sea anglers are being urged to get involved to help safeguard NI's endangered sharks, skates and rays through events around the North Coast this summer - seadeepni.org
Coast lovers and sea anglers are being urged to get involved to help safeguard NI's endangered sharks, skates and rays through events around the North Coast this summer - seadeepni.org

Sea anglers and coast lovers on the North Coast are being encouraged to get involved in efforts to protect some of our most endangered marine wildlife: sharks, skates and rays, as part of Ulster Wildlife’s new ‘Sea Deep’ project.

A series of events are taking place on the North Coast this month to help people find out more about these incredible creatures and ways they can help make a difference, thanks to support from Heritage Lottery Fund.

On Tuesday, July 24 at Portrush Coastal Zone, find out about the different sharks, skates and rays found around our coast with a fascinating talk by Ulster Wildlife’s Sea Deep Project Coordinator, Rebecca Hunter. Rebecca will share her knowledge of these fascinating but under-threat animals and their vital role in our seas, from the ironically named Common Skate, the largest skate in the world reaching three meters in length, to the Spurdog which can live for up to 70 years. Starts at 7pm.

On Wednesday, July 25, head to The Coast Office in Portballintrae at 11am to search the shoreline for shark eggcases or mermaid’s purse. Find out which species hatched from the eggcase and record them, to provide vital information on Northern Ireland’s shark species. Eggcases vary in size from the critically endangered common skate which can be the size of a laptop to lesser spotted dogfish eggcases which can be just 5 cm long.

Finally, on Saturday, July 28, sea anglers are invited to a free training session at the Portrush Coastal Zone from 1pm to 4pm to learn how to tag and handle sharks, skates and rays and record data to provide crucial information about these poorly understood animals. A free equipment pack will also be provided. Booking essential.

There are at least twenty sharks and rays in our local seas, but sadly they are under threat with numbers in serious decline. Sharks and rays are long-lived and slow to mature and reproduce which makes them vulnerable to overfishing and other human threats, such as pollution or habitat destruction.

Rebecca Hunter, Sea Deep Project Coordinator with Ulster Wildlife, said: “Unfortunately, we know very little about our sharks and rays even though some local species are now facing extinction. We want to ensure these incredible creatures are not lost from our seas forever and help connect people to what’s out of sight and out of mind. By working together with sea users and local communities, we hope to identify important spawning grounds and nursery areas to ensure local sharks get the protection they urgently need.”

Paul Mullan, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund in NI added: “Sea Deep, funded thanks to National Lottery players, is another important project, which is working to protect and highlight our natural heritage. The project is focusing on the skates and sharks that inhabit our seas but are increasingly under threat. We’ve invested over £50M in Northern Ireland’s natural heritage to help people to make a difference and we would encourage everyone to get involved in Ulster Wildlife’s ambitious new project.”

Visit www.seadeepni.org to find out more and get involved.