Volunteers tried to document the animals in the seas of Wales

Giant shark

Basking sharks live in British waters and are the second largest species of shark in the world

How about shark watching from the comfort of your own home?

Volunteers are being recruited to identify sharks, rays and rays from around the Welsh coast that have been captured by underwater cameras.

Data from over 90 hours of recordings will help conservationists build a picture of species diversity.

Volunteer Matt Thomson said he’s already hooked and hopes to see a “really rare” angel shark while working on the project.

Sharks Inspiring Action and Research with Communities (SIARC) is a collaboration between Natural Resources Wales and the Zoological Society of London, as well as communities in Gwynedd.

Throughout the summer of 2022, protected and critically endangered species were filmed with remote underwater cameras in a special protected area near the Llyn Peninsula.

Critically Endangered Vertex

The project led to the sighting of a critically endangered peak

Previously only for researchers, the footage is now available to everyone via the Instant Wild website.

These “citizen scientists” are asked to record the types of sharks, rays, and rays they see, which helps researchers save a lot of time and effort.

Joanna Barker from the Zoological Society of London said: “We will have a scientist reviewing all the footage, but the validator will be citizen scientists.

“We will be able to compare the results and data of both scientists and citizen scientists, which will really improve the scientific data we get from this project.”

Volunteer Matt Thomson

Volunteer Matt Thomson says he is already “addicted” to the project

Mr Thomson has been capturing exotic wildlife with the Instant Wild app for 10 years.

He said: “I’d really like to see an angel shark – that’s what this project is all about, they’re very rare. I will be very surprised if we actually see them and would be really excited to see a basking shark.

“But there are many other things that might interest you. Any shark, skate or stingray you see on these cameras will be really interesting.”

Jake Davies grew up on the Llyn Peninsula and is now a project coordinator at SIARC, helping set up underwater cameras.

Fishing crews helped him find the busiest spots, and he said the footage revealed a previously hidden world.

“Every time we say we study sharks, many people are surprised that we have sharks present off the coast of Wales,” he said.

“But there are many different species of shark in Wales, in fact over 25, from one of the rarest in the world – the angel shark – to one of the largest, the basking shark.”

Whether it’s crabs battling sharks or curious conger eels, the project has delivered some amazing visuals to the audience.

Scientists now hope to get the most accurate picture yet of life on the seabed.

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