The eager 'treasure hunters' spent the day scouring the strandline at Spurn Point, all hoping to spot one of the tough, leathery pouches that are actually the eggcases of sharks and rays. The day was also a chance to discover what sharks and rays live off the Yorkshire coastline and learn more about what can be done to help them.
With over 600 species of skate and ray worldwide, at least 16 species have been regularly recorded in UK coastal waters; most of these species reproduce by laying their tough leathery eggcases on the seabed. Of more than 30 species of British sharks, only three species lay eggcases (also known as mermaid’s purses) and of these, two types are commonly found on the shore; the Smallspotted Catshark and the Nursehound.
Each eggcase contains one embryo which will develop over several months into a miniature shark, skate or ray. Once empty, the eggcases often wash ashore and can be found among the strandline on beaches.
Spurn's strandline did not disappoint as the eagle-eyed marine enthusiasts spotted five eggcases in total – all Smallspotted catshark.
The event was organised as part of The Sharks Trust Great Eggcase Hunt which is funded by the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF). The project aims to get as many people as possible hunting for eggcases that have either been washed ashore, or are found by divers and snorkelers underwater. In recent decades, several species of shark, skate and ray around the British coast have dramatically declined in numbers. The empty eggcases are an easily accessible source of information on the whereabouts of potential nursery grounds and provide a better understanding of species abundance and distribution.
Suzy Rowe, The Deep's Conservation Officer, said: "The collaborative effort between The Deep and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust really has made this event a success. The different levels of expertise that both organisations have to offer made the day both a great opportunity for people to learn about our native sharks and rays, and also further their knowledge on all local wildlife.
"These events are not only just great days out, when an eggcase is discovered and reported to The Sharks Trust people actively contribute to conservation actions. This is what it’s about - there is no better way to engage and inspire the next generation of budding conservationists and marine biologists than getting hands on and stuck in!"