Mossel Bay | Garden Route

How Salt Life Fishing Charters Contribute to Shark Conservation in South Africa

Tag and release for shark conservation of a leopard catshark in Mossel Bay, South Africa
Leopard catshark (Poroderma pantherinum) caught for our tag and release shark conservation project

If you are a fishing enthusiast, you might have heard of us or joined one of our fishing charters. We offer exciting and ethical fishing trips in the waters of South Africa. But did you know that we are also involved in shark conservation, and that we collaborate with the local Shark Research Unit and tag sharks for Oceanographic Research Institute’s Cooperative Fish Tagging Project?

Learn more about this project, why it is important, and how you can participate.

Measuring a pyjama catshark (Poroderma africanum)

What is the Cooperative Fish Tagging Project?

The Cooperative Fish Tagging Project is a citizen science project that was launched by the Oceanographic Research Institute in 1984, with the aim of collecting data on the movement, growth, and biology of marine fish, especially sharks and rays, in South Africa and the Indian Ocean region. The project involves tagging fish with plastic tags that have a unique number. 

The tags are attached to the fish by trained anglers, charter operators, researchers, and conservationists, who also record the date, location, species, size, and sex of the fish. The tagged fish are then released back into the water, where they can be recaptured by other anglers or researchers, who can report the tag number and the recapture details to ORI. ORI then analyses the data and provides feedback to the taggers and the recapturers. You’ll find the published recapture and release reports on their website, and many references to their data in scientific journals.

Pyjama shark (Poroderma africanum) with an ORI spaghetti tag
A pyjama catshark (Poroderma africanum) with an ORI spaghetti tag

Why is the Cooperative Fish Tagging Project important?

The Cooperative Fish Tagging Project provides valuable information on the population dynamics, distribution, migration, and behaviour of marine fish. Sharks and rays, in particular, are often poorly studied and threatened by overfishing, habitat loss, and climate change. The data collected by the CFTP can help to improve the understanding and management of these animals, and to support their conservation and sustainable use. The Cooperative Fish Tagging Project also promotes the awareness and involvement of the public, especially the fishing community, in the conservation of marine fish, and encourages the adoption of best practices, such as catch-and-release, selective fishing, and minimal handling.

How do Salt Life Fishing Charters contribute to shark conservation?

Salt Life Fishing Charters collaborate with local shark researchers from the Shark Research Unit to tag sharks and rays. We offer a variety of fishing trips, such as deep sea fishing, and reef fishing, and target different species of fish, such as kob, yellowtail, bonito, and red fish. However, we also catch sharks and rays as bycatch, and use the opportunity to tag and release them as part of the Cooperative Fish Tagging Project. We also educate our clients about the importance and benefits of shark conservation, and invite them to join the tagging process and learn more about the sharks and rays they encounter.

A stunning endemic leopard catshark (Poroderma pantherinum), an important endemic species of South Africa
A stunning leopard catshark (Poroderma pantherinum), an important endemic species of South Africa

Who is the Shark Research Unit?

The Shark Research Unit is a shark and marine research and conservation institute driven by a passionate team of shark experts. They have a headquarters in Mossel Bay, but also work out of Aliwal Shoal in KZN. Their core purpose is to conduct and support original shark research, conservation and education programs through strategic partnerships with marine scientists, postgraduate students, ecotourism operators and academic institutes. 

Shark Research Unit’s focus extends to nurturing a new generation of shark scientists, professionals and enthusiasts, from all backgrounds and of all ages. They achieve this through their white shark research internship, learner outreach programs and expert guided shark edu-tours.

Shark Research Unit director, Nico, holding a spotted gully shark (Triakis megalopterus)
Shark Research Unit director, Nico, holding a spotted gully shark (Triakis megalopterus)

How can you join a shark tagging trip?

In partnership with Shark Research Unit, we are offering Shark Ecology and Biology Research Trips. You’ll get a chance to learn more about our incredible shark species, get hands on with shark tagging, and work with local researchers. Joining one of these trips, which feeds into The Cooperative Fish Tagging Project, is a great way to get an educational experience while enjoying the thrill of fishing, and helping shark conservation in South Africa. You can make a difference for the marine fish and their habitats, and also learn more about them and their fascinating biology. 

Reach out to us to book either a deep sea fishing trip, or an educational trip. Relish a fun and ethical fishing experience, while also contributing to shark conservation

Recording the information on data sheets and the ORI data cards
Recording the information on data sheets and the ORI data cards