Stuck for ideas on what to do over the Easter Holidays? Want to get outside and do something fun to work off all that pent up energy from eating too much chocolate? The Shark Trust has an Easter Egg Hunt with a difference for you to try. Take part in the Great Eggcase Hunt and get involved with a big citizen science project that helps shark, ray and skate conservation. And it’s an enjoyable activity for all the family.
Senior Conservation Officer Cat Gordon says “The Shark Trust launched the Great Eggcase Hunt back in 2003, when a chance find on a Devon beach sparked the idea. Since then, over 300,000 eggcase records have been sent in from all around the UK and even further afield. New finds from around the world are regularly being added to an ever-growing database. The project now has an impressive 43 species recorded from 29 countries. All this information helps us better understand species presence and diversity – it’s also a great way to get involved in shark conservation, and of course, it’s fun!”
So, what is an eggcase? Some sharks, and all true skates, reproduce by laying eggs. These are surrounded by a tough leathery capsule that protects the embryo as it develops inside. Small slits in the eggcase allow fresh oxygenated seawater in, and let waste out, while a yolk sac provides plenty of nutrition. After several months (although this will vary depending on species) they are ready to hatch. The top of the eggcase will open and a fully formed shark or skate will emerge and be completely independent, having to fend for itself. Once empty, the eggcases (or mermaid’s purses) often wash up on the beach.
You don’t need to be part of an organised event to join in with an eggcase hunt (although check to see if there is one running near you!). All you need to do, is head to your nearest beach and take a look around to see what you can find. The best places to search are in the strandline where seaweed and debris washes up, and in sand dunes at the back of the beach as they often get trapped in the grass.
The eggcases of different species vary. So, once you’ve found an eggcase, look at the size, shape, and features to identify which species it belongs to – we’ve developed identification resources to help you figure it out! Once you’ve got the answer, head over to the Shark Trust’s Recording Hub where you can submit your finds.
Paul Cox, Shark Trust MD, said “In our 25th Anniversary year, we can look back at the many things that we’ve achieved with our partners and supporters over the years. The Great Eggcase Hunt is one of our defining projects. Thousands of people have joined in the hunt over the years and the project goes from strength to strength – it’s fun, easy and a great way to learn about local sharks.”
The Shark Trust also want snorkellers and divers to record their underwater eggcase findings. Underwater records help pinpoint exactly where sharks and skates are laying their eggs and can help link to beach records. Learning the depth and substrate that they lay on also helps better understand the species.
Find out more: https://www.sharktrust.org/great-eggcase-hunt
Where to find out more:
- The Shark Trust has created a brand-new poster and ID guide to help you identify which species you have found. These can be found here: https://www.sharktrust.org/geh-how-can-you-help
- Once you have completed your Great Eggcase hunt take pictures and head to the Shark Trust website (sharktrust.org/recordyoureggcase) to record your finds.
- Want more shark and ray activities to keep the kids busy over the holidays? The Shark Trust have teamed up with the Great Out-tours to create activity bundles filled with fun and educational challenges, including crafts, puzzles, quizzes and wordsearches. https://thegreatout-tours.com/shark-trust/
- Weather bad? Live too far from a beach? Have no fear, the Shark Trust have developed a fun and educational indoor version of the Great Eggcase Hunt for you to try at home! You can find it here: https://www.sharktrust.org/geh-how-can-you-help
Eggcase Hunting Tips
BE SAFE ON THE BEACH:
- Check tide times
- Tell someone where you’re going
- If possible, use a stick to rummage in seaweed to avoid any nasty surprises
- Take care near the base of cliffs
- Respect wildlife and habitats by following the Seashore Code and don’t take live animals home with you.
- As you’re looking in the strandline anyway, why not do a spot of beach cleaning? It goes hand in hand with eggcase hunting!
- You can usually find eggcases amongst the seaweed that makes up the strandline. They blend in really well which means they can be difficult to spot at first, so keep your eyes peeled.
- When eggcases dry out they’re very light and can get blown to the back of the beach. They also get trapped in grasses on sand dunes. So these are good locations to search.
- Eggcases will wash up throughout the year. They may have freshly hatched, or been on the seabed for some time before being dislodged.
- After stormy weather has passed is prime eggcase hunting time. Lots of seaweed and debris will have been washed up on the beach – this is great to search in.
- Check to make sure it’s definitely an empty eggcase and nothing is inside.
- If a live embryo is inside, pop the eggcase back in the sea and try to weigh it down so it doesn’t wash ashore again.
- Empty eggcases have no secondary purpose as some shells do for hermit crabs. They also don’t break down to form sand.
Find out more: https://www.sharktrust.org/great-eggcase-hunt
UK Shark Fin ban moves closer to becoming law
Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation’s relentless campaigns to make Britain shark fin-free reached a new milestone last week when a private member’s bill to ban the import and export of shark fins was voted through parliament with unanimous cross-party support.
The bill is now scheduled for three readings in the House of Lords and, if successful, it will then go to King Charles for Royal Ascent and become law.
Campaign director for Bite-Back, Graham Buckingham, said:
“Our goal of ending Britain’s ties with the global shark fin trade is within our reach. This country has a dark history of exporting around 20 tonnes of shark fins every year and it remains legal to bring up to 20kg of dried shark fins through Customs without needing to declare it. This bill could represent a significant blow to the multi-million-pound shark fin industry. It’s now down to the House of Lords to smooth its path to the palace.”
Since July 2022 the charity has been consulting the Labour MP Christina Rees who put forward the private member’s bill after the government failed to bring its Animal Welfare Bill, that promised to ban the import and export of shark fins, into law last year.
To help improve support for the bill, Bite-Back also created a briefing document on the issues for all MPs to reference. During the bill’s final reading in the House of Commons MPs from different parties wholeheartedly endorsed the ban on the import and export of shark fins.
In her closing statement Christina Rees MP said that she hoped this bill would ‘drive up the standards of global shark conservation’.
Bite-Back will now turn its attention to educating and inspiring members of the House of Lords to vote in favour of a ban.
Follow the bill’s progress at www.bite-back.com and learn how you can get involved in supporting shark conservation initiatives in the UK.
Header image: Finned sharks underwater- Copyright – Scubazoo.
Shark Trust calls for global shark citizen scientists
The Shark Trust has launched a new smartphone app that makes it simple for everyone to get involved in shark science and conservation. The new app brings together five citizen science projects into one place, allowing users to report: shark sightings, eggcase finds, Basking Shark observations, angling catches, and incidents of shark entanglement with marine litter.
Through these projects, anyone with an interest in sharks, skates and rays can contribute to important research and have a lot of fun along the way. The findings can be submitted from anywhere in the world and will help scientists by providing a range of vital data from some of the 1200+ species of sharks, skates and rays that swim in our ocean.
As users submit their findings across the five citizen science projects, they will build a logbook of their research contributions. These are saved in their profile and shared with the wider community, so users can see what other people have recently been discovering.
Alongside this important citizen science aspect, there are also 50 collectible shark cards to unlock: 30 bronze cards, 15 silver cards, and five gold cards. Submitting to any of the projects unlocks a card at random, so you never know what you’re going to find!
The Shark Trust’s flagship citizen science project, the Great Eggcase Hunt, which encourages the public to find the empty eggcases (or mermaid’s purses) of sharks and skate on the beach or submit those seen developing in situ, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
Senior Conservation Officer Cat Gordon says “We’re really excited to be celebrating the Great Eggcase Hunt’s 20th anniversary this year! As part of the celebrations, we’re releasing this brand-new citizen science app, hosting a public evening event, and planning a special edition of the Trust’s membership magazine Shark Focus. The project has grown substantially since 2003, when we received just 128 records in the first year, to having a staggering 50,212 individual eggcases recorded in 2022 alone! In total, we’ve received over 370,000 eggcases since the project began, and we hope the app inspires even more people to get out and about in search of mermaid’s purses!”
The Great Eggcase Hunt element of the app features eggcases from species which can be found in the Northeast Atlantic, as well as those in Australia (working in partnership with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation). In time we will add identification materials from more regions, but until then, records can still be submitted from outside these areas. This app replaces the previous Great Eggcase Hunt app which was launched in 2014 – so if you previously used that then please delete it and download the new version!
If you are interested in sharks, skates and rays and want to help contribute towards research and conservation, the Shark Trust citizen science app is for you. Everyone from the occasional beachgoer to seasoned divers and anglers can get involved.
Paul Cox, Shark Trust CEO, says “For a while we’ve wanted to make it easier and more fun for people to identify and record their sightings. Thanks to a generous donation from Animal Friends Pet Insurance, we’ve been able to create this great tool with local gamification specialists, Kazow Games. We’re really excited to get this app out into the world and start to see more recorders getting involved with our projects.”
Search for ‘Shark Trust’ in the relevant app store, download the app today, and start recording your findings. We are already working on some exciting updates and are still welcoming feedback, so if you have opportunity to try it out, please let us know what you think!
Let’s build a global community of citizen scientists who can help protect these incredible animals together!
Find out more on the Shark Trust website.
Header image: James Harris
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