Sharks play an essential rol in the health of our oceans

Sharks and Rays Back into the North Sea!

The populations of sharks and rays in the North Sea have declined dramatically due to overfishing…

In June 2015 the project “Sharks and Rays back into the North Sea” (‘Haaien en roggen terug in de Noordzee) started, a collaboration of five parties, which signed a collaboration agreement for four years:

  • Dutch Worldwide Fund for Nature (
  • Breeding Facility Blue Linked (
  • Dutch Recreational Angling Union (Sportvisserij Nederland,
  • North Sea Foundation (Stichting de Noordzee, and
  • Dutch Shark Society (

The breeding facility in Utrecht is the place where egg cases of sharks and rays are bred and research is carried out.

Part of the project is the development of breeding protocols to share knowledge and best practices for animal management.

The eggcases are collected in aquaria and on May 1st, 2016, the first thornback rays were born. Now, over 300 young thornback rays are thriving in the aquaria. Their development is documented and the research aims at the best practices of raising the animals in captivity and exploring the feasibility of a possible later reintroduction in the North Sea. The thornback ray, a species listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List for Europe, was chosen as a pilot species, as eggs are easily available in Dutch aquaria. 


A catshark in its  eggcase

This project builds on the Dutch Shark Action Plan of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, the Dutch department of Economic Affairs and other partners. The aim:  ‘A North Sea with a healthy ecosystem with healthy populations of sharks and rays’. This should be realized in 2030.

Reintroduction following the guidelines of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature is explored, as the populations of several species, like the common skate and the angel sharks, are so seriously depleted that  a ‘natural’ recovery will take too long.
Other aspects are bycatch migitation in fisheries, for which steps have been taken in collaboration with commercial fisheries. 

There has been genetic research on the populations in Dutch aquaria, to see if the genetic profile is the same as the last individuals in the North Sea. This was confirmed.

Sportvisserij Nederland is involved in tagging the young rays when reïntroduced as this organisation has extensive knowledge of shark and ray migration and tagging.

The Dutch Shark Society is a consultant for this project, gives media advice and documents the whole process in pictures.

The Grote Eikapseljacht (Great Eggcase hunt, contributes indirectly to this research as well: empty eggcases from the wild, that were collected by volunteers, are examined at Blue Linked, a.o. for predation marks to see which natural predators feed on them.

You can read the project brochure as a PDF here.


Eggcases at the breeding facility




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