New shark and ray research project

Published on
March 10, 2021

VisNed and the Dutch Fishermen´s Union participate in a new research project to gain better insight into the survival of rays after capture and into the life cycle and distribution of rays and sharks. The kick-off meeting of this project took place at the end of January 2021. The project, called ´Bridging knowledge gaps for Sharks and Rays in the North Sea´, implements research questions resulting from the landing obligation and the Shark Action Plan. The commercial fleet is asked to contribute in various ways.

Research on the survival rate of rays

Currently, there is an exception to the landing obligation for rays. Based on preliminary research results, it has been established that rays have a high chance of surviving the catch. However, EU Member States and fishermen have been given homework to better substantiate the survival rate of rays after capture with more research.

Within the project, Wageningen Marine Research (WMR) will conduct exploratory research into the survival rate of various ray species in flyshoot, Norway lobster and twinrig fisheries. Data on the survival rate of rays after capture is already available from beam trawling/pulse fishing.

After the exploratory research trips, two ray species in two of the four aforementioned gear categories are chosen for more intensive monitoring in order to determine the survival rate with more certainty.

VisNed and the Dutch Fishermen's Union approach fishermen with a request to participate in this research.

Life cycle of sharks and rays

The Shark Action Plan aims to enable better management of sharks and rays, which requires more knowledge about the distribution and life cycle of different species of sharks and rays.

This project fills this knowledge gap and looks at the role that the Dutch part of the North Sea and the Dutch North Sea coastal zone play in the life cycles of sharks and rays.

The focus will be on spotted smooth shark, rough shark, thornback ray, blonde ray and stingray. The project will collect DNA material from some species and tag sharks and rays to track their location and routes. Fishermen are asked to report any tagged animal in their catch.

Relationship to other projects

In Bridging knowledge gaps, research is continuing on the DNA of rays and using DNA material from rays for stock assessments from the Innorays project. The research into the survival of rays is carried out in the same way as earlier research into the survival of bycatch by WMR and ILVO in cooperation with fishermen.

In addition, data collected by tagging sharks and rays are analysed and processed in the Life-IP project. The Life-IP project has received earlier attention from VisNed and an article was published in Visserijnieuws.

Client and project consortium

The project Bridging knowledge gaps for sharks and rays in the North Sea is being carried out during 2021 and 2022 on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

In December 2022 the research results will be published in a final report. Wageningen University and WMR will carry out most of the research work.

VisNed and the Dutch Fishermen's Union will contribute sector knowledge and carry out organisational tasks, and the Dutch Elasmobranch Association will ensure international co-ordination of the research and transfer the research results to the policy table.

The Visserij-Innovatiecentrum Stellendam will coordinate the modification of the vessels and the installation of the survival tanks on board the vessels that will make the survival research possible. The project is financed from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.