On the Edge Grantee
Project SIARC (Sharks Inspiring Action and Research with Communities) is catalysing links between fishers, researchers, communities and government to collaborate and safeguard elasmobranchs and support a green recovery in Wales.
Year: 2020 - ongoing
Country: United Kingdom
Grantee: Zoological Society of London
Species: Angelshark (Squatina squatina)
What is the Challenge?
The Critically Endangered Angelshark is the 5th most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) elasmobranch (shark, skate and ray) in the world, and one of the rarest vertebrates in European waters. The Angelshark was once common in the Northeast Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea, and Black Sea, but their range has declined by 58% during the past century due to intensified fishing. Angelsharks are still present in Welsh waters, one of the last remaining confirmed populations in the Northeast Atlantic. It is currently the only resident assessed EDGE species in the UK.
The Goal of Project SIARC (Sharks Inspiring Action & Research with Communities) is to cultivate a new appreciation of the underwater marine environment with audiences who have yet to discover this part of Wales’ natural heritage. Project SIARC will focus on the Pen Llŷn a'r Sarnau (PLAS) Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Carmarthen Bay and Estuaries SAC (CBAE).
The project features fisher-led collaborative Angelshark conservation, enabling them to provide sighting records and follow fishing best practices by promoting stewardship behaviours. For the first time, Angelshark seasonal presence in Wales has been investigated using novel environmental DNA techniques and tagging. The project promotes Angelsharks as flagship species for Wales to coastal communities and maritime museum visitors, introducing Angelsharks into local school curriculums to inspire the next generation.
The project also features the Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUVs) & Instant Wild (IW) activities that will improve the PLAS and SAC site management through surveying and assessment of elasmobranch species presence and habitat feature associations. It will also include citizen scientists reviewing BRUVs footage using the Instant Wild platform where they will participate in marine conservation and gain a greater understanding of elasmobranchs.
The project is linked with the priority objectives of the Welsh Government, UK legislation, and the Convention on Migratory Species, and is part of a wider collaborative network of Angelshark experts through the Angelshark Conservation Network.
Achievements to date:
A juvenile angelshark was filmed in Cardigan Bay for the very first time underwater in 2021 and angelsharks eDNA was detected in multiple samples, confirming the presence of angelsharks in Welsh waters throughout the year. The History of Angels exhibit was displayed at the Llŷn Maritime Museum and 80 children in six Welsh schools met with scientists to learn about the angelsharks. In 2022, Swansea University has successfully installed 3D printers at nine schools and completed the initial training with teachers and engagement meetings. 150 schoolchildren have been involved in the 3D printing programme so far, all of which have included 3D printing of elasmobranchs as part of their summer 2022 term activities.