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#Science

Wildlife trust ‘saddened’ as fisherman accidentally catches porbeagle shark

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The Dorset Wildlife Trust has pegged the recent catching of porbeagle shark by local fisherman as an ‘unfortunate incident’.

Jan Davey, a local fisherman in Dorset, saw the critically endangered  porbeagle shark caught in a trammel net about 300 yards off the Cove and even though it was too big for his boat he managed to haul it back to shore. He said that he wasn’t aware about the species and its status and wasn’t actually looking to catch one of these sharks.

“This was an unfortunate incident”, says Marc Smith, DWT Chesil Beach Centre Manager. “The fisherman was clearly not targeting the animal, given the location of the nets. But porbeagles are breeding at this time of year, ready to give birth in the spring, so it is a shame to see this reproductive female removed from the population.”

© Chesil Beach Watch

© Chesil Beach Watch

Smith says that he isn’t surprised by this incident as they get regular reports of porbeagle sightings around the Dorset coast.

“Basking sharks, blue sharks and porbeagles have all been seen close by. We also get dolphins just off the beach, following the fish. All of which are susceptible to nets”, he added.

Porbeagle sharks are mackerel sharks, related to the mako and white shark. They typically grow to around 3m but despite their appearance and size, they are not considered a danger to humans as their main interest is fish. Like most sharks they are long-lived, slow growing, mature late and produce few young, making them extremely vulnerable to overfishing. Since 2010, commercial fishermen within the EU have been prohibited from targeting and landing porbeagles. When accidently caught, they must be returned to the sea, unharmed if possible.

The Wildlife Trusts are currently proposing that 17 special areas around England and Wales should become protected areas for dolphins, whales and sharks to safeguard these species (some of which are in decline) against damaging activities. This includes Lyme Bay in Dorset, which is a hot spot for white-beaked dolphins, bottlenose dolphin, the common dolphin and the basking shark, to name just a few.