This week in Looe the Shark Angling Club of Great Britain are holding their Annual Shark Festival. The SACGB was formed in Looe in 1953 and is the only angling club to focus entirely on shark angling in Europe and very possibly well beyond that
The event takes place over three days and this year there are 45 anglers and 11 boats competing. Because of the increasing number of anglers wishing to participate in the festival, the Looe fleet will be joined by Chris Gill, Aquila from Mevagissey and Lewis Hodder, Pegasus from Lyme Regis
All sharks are measured and released. The sharks which are large enough are tagged and details of the size, sex and general health of the shark are passed to the SACGB research partner, The National Marine Fisheries Service Apex Predators Cooperative Shark Tagging Programme who are affiliated to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration organisation in the USA.
This tagging programme has been running since 1962. In the period to 2015, over 243,000 sharks of 52 species have been tagged and more than 14,000 sharks of 33 species have been recaptured.
The tagging results are interesting with one Cornish shark being recaptured 2000 miles away in the central Atlantic. Another shark tagged off Penzance was recaptured by Russian vessel 900 miles of French Guiana which is a distance of 3200 miles. Two further Cornish sharks were recaptured off Long Island, USA which is a straight-line distance of 3500 miles.
The knowledge gained from tagging work combined with the conservation efforts of angling groups like the SACGB and other marine conservation groups has enabled the shark numbers to recover. The SACGB maintains a record of sharks caught and released out of Looe and the results clearly demonstrate the power of their conservation efforts. In the year 2000 there were only 85 sharks caught and released. Since then their numbers have steadily increased to last year when it reached 1887.
This year the sharks have returned earlier and so far, the proportion of larger sharks has increased significantly which is further evidence that shark stocks are recovering
The first shark recorded in club minutes was a 104lb Blue Shark caught by Mrs Daphne Case and in fact this is a sport where the ladies very often show the men how it’s done.
The British Record Mako Shark weighed 500lbs and was caught by Joyce Yallop out of Looe in 1971.
The British Record Porbeagle Shark weighed 369lbs and was caught by Pat Smith out of Looe in 1970.
Both these ladies caught their sharks aboard the Lady Betty which was skippered by Alan Dingle who still lives in Looe.
To join the club you simply need to catch and release a shark to become an associate member and to be a full member the minimum length of shark needs to be 70” from the tip of the nose to the fork of the tail.
More details can be found on their website at www.sharkanglingclubofgreatbritain.org.uk
The skippers of the boats are charter boat professionals who follow best practise like that provided by the WWF. Body gaffing of sharks is not allowed. Sharks are never held by their gills and are constantly doused with sea water whilst on deck. The hook is removed using the correct equipment and most boats have access doors to facilitate the boarding and release of the shark. The tagging information provides marine scientists with data on growth rates and migration patterns which helps us understand how to better protect this species who have lived on or planet for around 450 million years.