SHARKS around the Cumbrian coast are to be given a helping hand by conserva-tionists who want to halt a decline in their numbers.

Experts at the Shark Trust want to help fishermen identify the breeds of shark, skate and ray they may catch to gain a clearer picture of how sharks around Cumbria are coping.

Then measures could be brought in to help their populations recover.

As many as 35 different types of sharks, skate and ray live in the Irish Sea off the coast of Cumbria – five of them ‘critically endangered’ and others ‘vulnerable’.

At least 21 of those are residents, while others appear during their migration in the summer.

The Shark Trust is working alongside the North West Inshores Fisheries and Conservation Authority on the project, and hopes to put on activities and events later in the year to explain in detail how they want fishermen to help.

“Sharks have a long life history and grow slowly, as well as having few young, so this makes them highly susceptible to overfishing,” said Ali Hood, director of conservation at the trust.

“This isn’t about dictating to industry – we want to engage with fishermen to enable a better understan-ding of these animals so we can help them.

“It really is essential to get a picture of what species are out there and how they are doing.”

Ms Hood added that sharks posed no threat to fishermen at sea off Cumbria, with the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) citing only two unprovoked shark attacks in England since 1847.

According to the International Union for Conser-vation of Nature ‘redlist’, the porbeagle, spiny dogfish, angelshark, flapper skate and white skate are among the critically endangered breeds in the Irish Sea off Cumbria.

The species classified as being of ‘least concern’ in the Irish Sea include the starry smoothhound, smallspotted catshark, blackmouth catshark, cuckoo ray and spotted ray.

Identification data is available on the Trust website at Or, to find out more, call 01752-672020.