Project: Blue Shark Project 2017
Crowdfunding Link: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-cornish-blue-shark-project

Blue sharks are one of the most incredible and charismatic species of shark in the ocean. Blue Sharks play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of entire marine ecosystems.  Who knew that these awesome creatures, roamed the oceans here in the UK, just off the South West coast of Cornwall? Although they are highly migratory species, a gathering of numerous individuals has been registered in the summer period in the waters around Cornwall, due to the high productivity of this area.

Even if these amazing creatures are present in our oceans, they need our urgent help and face many challenges in the wild, ranging from overfishing and pollution from plastics. Team Blue Shark 2017, will be looking to raise money to support a ground-breaking research project to help protect these incredible sharks for future generations to come. snorkel

The Project:

Even though various scientific studies reported information about genetics, migratory patterns and bioaccumulation of contaminants in blue sharks, all of them relied on animals collected by fishery vessels, in most cases because they represent one of the main by-catch species.

Our project aims to overcome this issue, providing a starting point for a multi-year research programme intended to set up a photo-identification database, to study genetics of populations and bioaccumulation of the most common pollutants and their biological effects on living sharks. Over the summer 2017, a small sample of skin (the size of half a pinkie) will be taken from sharks swimming in the ocean. The samples will be then appropriately divided and dispatched to different research groups (South Devon College, University of Ancona and University of Salford) to carry out the relative analyses. The expected results will be fundamental to increase our knowledge on this “near threatened” species and to feed into assessments for better species protection. With your help, we can help preserve this species so important for the marine ecosystem for future generations to come.

Our aims are to:

  • Determine the use of South West Cornwall as possible feeding grounds for Blue Sharks and investigate whether there is any mixing between different populations (Mediterranean, North Atlantic and South Atlantic);
  • Assesses the health of Blue Sharks;
  • Create a database of dorsal fins for a long-term photo-identification program;
  • Inspire and enhance awareness of the shark’s biology, ecology and conservation in the public by disseminating results obtained through different means; and
  • In addition, for their ecological role, blue sharks are routinely consumed by people, therefore contaminants in their flesh can represent health issues for human consumption that should be monitored. The information gathered by the research team will contribute to assess this threat and propose measures for its control.pic

Blue Shark are the main bycatch in Atlantic tuna fisheries and dominate the global shark fin market, with more than 60,000 metric tons of blue sharks taken from the Atlantic in 2015. Atlantic high seas management body ICCAT requires data and information to underpin management decisions. It is noteworthy that ICCAT scientists are not due to revisit blue shark population status and related advice on catches until 2021, meaning that before this deadline all the possible scientific information will be decisive to revisit the status of this “Near threatened” species.

Who is involved:

Dr Andrea Gaion (Project Leader)– Dr Andrea Gaion has a wide range of experience and knowledge in studying the effects of contaminants on marine wildlife. He has previously studied the accumulation of trace metals in a Mediterranean shark species and he trained working with great white sharks in South Africa and is now looking to use his expertise to study and protect blue sharks in the UK.

Salford University/University of Ancona/South Devon College: The research project will be held in conjunction with different research groups and scientists with a strong international reputation in their own scientific specialism. South Devon College will be the leading institute for this project, thanks to its strategic vision in developing scientific research aimed to protect the marine environment primarily in the South West of our country.

The Shark Trust: The project has been presented to the Shark Trust, an UK-based charity engaged in several key decision-making processes, to better influence and shape policy and management of sharks, skates and rays at both national and global scale, which confirmed their support in this important research.

Charles Hood Photography: Charles Hood is a underwater photographer, diving instructor, photojournalist and commercial diver in Cornwall. Charles will be kindly assiting the team with the tagging and transportation elements of the project. You can view his website here: http://charleshood.com.

The Conservation Project-Harry Wright, co-founder of The Conservation Project (a global online conservation platform, www.tcproject.co.uk)  and the Blue Shark Team, will be supporting the research team with all of the marketing/media affairs of the project.

Stakeholders: Results would be made available to advocacy organisations like the UK based Shark Trust, who may use the results to further their efforts for species management.

When/How much:

The project is due to start very soon, beginning in July 2017.

During the summer 2017 samples from about 50 sharks will be collected and dispatched in as short period of time to the appropriate researchers. Samples will be analysed and the results will be available for the final data analysis by the end of 2017. We aim to complete the whole project, including analysis of data by the end of February-March 2018.

We need all the help we can get, to make this project possible. The overall amount of money that we need to raise, is £27,000 and your pledges will go towards the following:

Phases Details Costs
Phase 1 Chemical reagents needed for micronucleus analysis (to measure genetic damage), slides for microscopes, disposable containers for samples £ 3000
Phase 2 Chemical reagents for genetic analysis and specialised software to analyse the data £ 7000
Phase 3 Chemical analyses of pollutants in shark’s flesh £ 7500
Phase 4 Analysis of different biological responses to stress (Including cost of shipping with a professional courier in Dry Ice ~£2000) £ 9500
Total      £ 27,000

 

We would be so grateful for your help today in supporting this groundbreaking research project. All of your pledges will go towards a great cause and will help to inspire a new generation to care for our magical marine life here in the UK.

 

 

 

 

 

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