HotRIBS - The online RIB Magazine
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  # 038
Shoot a Shark!


As the world's second biggest shark, the basking shark, returns to coastal waters this Spring, an appeal is being launched to help save the endangered basking shark. Members of the public, especially divers, fishermen, motorboaters and yachtsmen are being asked to shoot photographs of the basking shark to assist the European Basking Shark Photo-Identification Project.

The announcement of the project follows in the wake of the recent controversial decision at the conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Nairobi not to give international protection to the basking shark which has suffered from over-exploitation for the highly lucrative shark fin trade. The CITES decision leaves the endangered basking shark highly vulnerable to further exploitation which threatens to bring the species to the brink of extinction.

The European Basking Shark Photo-Identification Project, which is backed by IFAW, the National Marine Aquarium, The Shark Trust, The Wildlife Trusts and WWF will gather and analyse photos of the sharks to help track their movements. This information is considered invaluable in helping understand how Britain's biggest shark can be better protected. Some basking sharks have distinctive markings and injuries on their dorsal fins making individuals easily recognisable.

Basking shark populations have been decimated in the past century by over-hunting from which they have still not recovered. It is believed that basking shark populations are now only a fraction of what

they used to be. Although hunting is now banned in some waters, the basking shark is still at risk from a variety of other threats including collisions with boats and entanglement in fishing nets.

"This project gives members of the public the chance to take part in one of Europe's most important wildlife conservation projects", said Cohn Speedie, spokesperson for the Project. "They will help gather information which is essential in helping understand what action is needed to safeguard the survival of the world's most endangered shark," he added.

Photo-identification has been successfully used around the world to help conserve many other marine species including dolphins, whales, grey seals and great white sharks. Observers are asked to record the date, time and place of the photograph. The project is being co-ordinated throughout Europe to help build up an international picture of the movements of these sharks.

Although they appear in coastal waters between spring and autumn, basking sharks disappear during winter months and it is still a mystery where they go.