The marine environment along the Welsh coast is teeming with life and Project SIARC - Sharks Inspiring Action and Research with Communities - is doing all it can to make things even better.
The programme, which launched in 2022, brings together local communities, fishers, researchers, and government to safeguard sharks, skates and rays, whilst cultivating a new appreciation and opening-up access to the underwater environment in Wales.
The collaborative project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Welsh Government’s Nature Networks Fund and On the Edge and has four main aims - tackling critical data gaps, diversifying involvement in marine conservation in Wales, encouraging a wider appreciation of the nation’s underwater environment and inspiring the next generation to engage with marine conservation.
Through working alongside fishers in Wales, the project, is collecting a range of historical and current data on the focal species. During the summer, the team deploys a network of underwater cameras with charter boat skippers to gather information on the sharks, skates and rays, as well as their habitats.
The team works with citizen scientists, who are encouraged to watch this underwater footage to help build an understanding of aquatic species that live in Welsh Waters and conduct eggcase hunts to identify which species are breeding in the area.
The team also extracts DNA from water samples to understand what species are present in different months of the year. Bringing the innovative programme out into the community, Project SIARC aims to inspire a new generation of conservationists through interactive primary school sessions, including ‘Meet the Scientist’ sessions and learning how to 3D print shark models.
They have developed several bilingual resources for schoolchildren, including the History of Angels eBook. Project SIARC is delivered in partnership by ZSL (Zoological Society of London), Natural Resources Wales, Bangor University, Blue Abacus, Minorities in Shark Sciences, North Wales Wildlife Trust, Shark Trust, Swansea University and several collaborative partners.
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