SCS is a small volunteer run Society which has achieved an enviable record of conservation and research wins. The world today is obsessed with everything needing to be safe. A small adventure group of shark enthusiasts (SCS) simply can't afford the legal, insurance and administrative back-up which would guard against any risks of SCS having to pay out in the event of a claim or a legal action. The cost of our expeditions would have to double or treble!
When I read last year that a BBC film crew had to do a 'risk assessment' before filming a group of Morris dancers it brought home to me just how pathetic the world has become, we all know how dangerous knotted hankies can be! Today's adventurer who wants to be safe must wrap him/her self in cotton wool, go to bed and watch TV.
The directors of the Society are currently studying this problem searching for a way for our expeditions to be able to continue. It is with great regret therefore we have to announce that until this process has been completed, and a way forward found, we will have to suspend expeditions.
To our loyal supporters and past volunteers the message is 'We are not going away, won't lie down, and will find a way at going on, even if it involves all volunteers having to buy shares in cotton wool and avoid Morris dancers'! More to follow.
Adriatic Expedition Report July 18 - August 9 2005.
Organiser - Richard Peirce
Expedition Leaders - Richard Peirce/Craig Ferreira
Catering/First Aid - Jacqueline Peirce
Volunteer researchers - Mark Boothman, Steve Brigg, Andy Currie, Vanessa Evans, Mark Flight, Gary Gardner, Tom Hird, Naomi Julien, Wendy Mauchline, Stuart Nicholls, Bob Pennington, Sanja Peterka, Andy Sweeney, Claire Watterson.
Documentary Film Company - Monaco Films
We would like to express:-
Our thanks to Alen Soldo for help and advice.
The general objective was to obtain a credible indication of the health of predatory shark populations on the Croatian side of the central Adriatic sea. Had a white shark been encountered a P.A. tag set for 90 days would have been deployed, tissue samples were to be taken from any white sharks, porbeagles, makos or threshers encountered and return tags were to be fitted to as many animals as possible.
Two reconnaissance visits to Murter island by Richard and Jacqui Peirce, conversations with sports anglers, local artisanal fishermen, and commercial fishermen led to the selection of six sites to be assessed/investigated by 24 hour chumming and observation over 21 days. Sites were chosen for various reasons and whilst it was expected that all the sites should produce sharks, some were expected to yield higher numbers and different species than others. We expected during the expedition to get reports of sightings and sharks caught and decided not to react to these and play chase the shark unless information of special interest was received e.g. reports of GWS. It was felt that by reacting to reports and thereby modifying our plans we would at least in part reduce the validity of our findings.
Sardines were the main material used and chum stations were sited at various depths at various times. Two blue fin tuna were caught by our skippers and tuna blood, heads, tails, and guts were all used as chum.
Richard Peirce and Craig Ferreira each led a team of four volunteers and alternated working 24 hour shifts. Two pairs each worked 3 hour watches from 0800 - 2000 and then 2 hour watches through the night. During darkness the area astern of the main boat was illuminated.
Two boats were chartered each with a Croatian skipper. Baracuda our main vessel had six berths and was 15 metres in length and was supported by the 8.5 metre Lucia with three berths.
On the basis of a 20/21 day at sea expedition a total of between 400 and 425 hours chumming should have been possible spread over the six sites chosen, in fact only 308.5 hours were achieved. This reduction was caused by the loss of three days due to bad weather and mechanical failure. The site worst affected was Jabuka where we only chummed for three hours before bad weather forced us to run for shelter at Vis Island.
This loss was particularly unfortunate as we had expected the Jabuka/Svetac area to be among the most productive, and to present the best chance of encountering GWS (Carcharodon carcharias) and short fin makos (Isurus oxyrinchus). It is hoped in the future to do 4 days in this area as a stand alone exercise to complete the project.
In addition to the 308.5 hours chumming achieved by our expedition there was other regular daily chumming going on in our general area of operations being done by sports angling boats trying to attract blue fin tuna. These angling boats reported blue shark captures and I have included these reports when sure of their authenticity.
In addition to the above I would add credible reports of a further seven (7) Prionace glauca caught/seen and identified by angling boats reporting to us. Thus our expeditions 308.5 hours chumming produced only nine Prionace glauca. If the 7 Prionace glauca identified by angling boats are added the total is 16 with the total chumming time increasing to something over 400 hours.
Dr. Alen Soldo asked us to investigate the area where the islands of Dugi Otok and Kornati come together as he had heard reports that this area was a blue shark pupping ground. Nine hours and fifty minutes chumming was done in this area from two boats covering a drifted area of 3 ½ miles. The only specimen identified was a Prionace glauca female pup which was tagged and released. Not conclusive proof of a pupping ground, but given that the only specimen encountered was a pup, the indication is that the reports received by Dr. Soldo are correct.
Eight complete 24 hour periods were chummed with eleven further days of chumming activity between 3 ½ and 23 hours (total 308 ½ hours). The activity was conducted at seven locations with a further site added at the suggestion of Alen Soldo. We had expectations of daily Prionace glauca contacts and also hoped for encounters with Lamna nasus (porbeagle) Alopias vulpinas (common thresher) Isurus oxyrinchus (short fin mako) Cetorhinus maximus (basking shark) Squalus acanthias (piked dogfish) Squalus blainvillei (longnose spurdog) Carcharodon carcharias (great white shark) Scyliorhinus canicula (small spotted catshark) Scyliorhinus stellaris (nursehound) Mustelus asterias (starry smooth-hound) Musteluis mustelus (common smooth-hound).
The expedition used various chum techniques with chum stations sunk to various depths including below the thermocline, and where hooks were used hoping for captures and tagging, these were also deployed at various depths with various different baits.
Of the 28/29 species listed as present in the Adriatic we had hoped to encounter the twelve species previously listed, but in fact can only record the 16 confirmed specimens of Prionace glauca in over 400 hours of chumming at our 7+ different sites. (*N.B. Small numbers of squalus were observed landed in Jazera and Murter by local fishermen).
This is a truly alarming result and indicates that shark populations in the central Adriatic are even more depleted than was previously thought. I don't believe that a research exercise of this magnitude has even been carried out in this area before, and I do believe that the results/conclusions achieved, present an accurate and truly depressing picture. All those on the expedition hope that our findings may be used as part of future efforts to gain protection for some species, and sustainable fisheries management plans for the Adriatic sea.
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Dateline 16th March 2015.
We would like to draw all members attention to a campaign to ban shark fins soup from all government related events in Singapore. The campaign is collecting pledges and you can go online at Campaign.com/FINishedwithFINs to sign up.