Sharks, skates and rays are under threat. It's vital that we learn more about these aquatic species and their habitats if we are to create practical routes to their recovery. That's where Project SIARC comes in.
What is Project SIARC?
Project SIARC - Sharks Inspiring Action and Research with Communities - is a multidisciplinary project, combining both social and biological sciences. Working together with coastal communities around Wales - including commercial and recreational fishers, citizen scientists, researchers, schools and government - the project aims to gather data on elasmobranchs (sharks, skates and rays) and their associated habitats, along with inspiring a greater appreciation for the marine environment in Wales.
The Welsh coast is home to a range of marine life, including 26 species of sharks, skates and rays - a group known as elasmobranchs. Elasmobranchs are an important part of Wales’ natural heritage, with significant conservation and cultural importance. Despite this, little is known about their biology and ecology. We're working to change this through Project SIARC.
What are the objectives for Project SIARC?
Four flagship elasmobranch species have been identified: Angelshark (Squatina squatina), spurdog (Squalus acanthias), common stingray (Dasyatis pastinaca) and tope (Galeorhinus galeus).
Project SIARC has four main objectives -
Management of two Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) is improved by addressing critical data gaps in the ecology of benthic and bentho-pelagic elasmobranchs and their associations with designated features, using fisher-integrated research.
Opportunities for involvement in marine conservation in Wales are diversified by developing an inclusive strategy that identifies under-served groups, barriers to their engagement and how to overcome these.
A wider appreciation of the underwater environment in Wales is generated by showcasing elasmobranch presence in two SACs and encouraging active involvement through citizen science using online identification via Instant Wild, archival research and eggcase hunts.
The next generation are inspired to connect with marine conservation through learning about elasmobranchs in their local SACs using interactive engagement and 3D printing.
Project SIARC works across Wales, but research and community engagement is focused around two SAC’s - Pen Llŷn A’r Sarnau SAC in North Wales, and Carmarthen Bay and Estuaries SAC in South Wales. Research led by Project SIARC scientists in the SACs includes eDNA sampling - taking water samples to detect elasmobranch DNA, deploying BRUVs (Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems) to assess what elasmobranchs and habitats are present, and working closely with fishers to gather information on the four focal species.
Project SIARC is led by the Zoological Society of London and Natural Resources Wales. It's kindy funded by Welsh Governments Nature Networks Fund, National Lottery Heritage Fund, and On the Edge.