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Deep Sea Angler Ronald Surgenor Wins Marine Conservation Award

14th December 2020
Ronald Surgenor - Marsh Volunteer Award for Marine Conservation Ronald Surgenor - Marsh Volunteer Award for Marine Conservation

Ronald Surgenor is a Project Officer with the Ulster Wildlife Trust and has been awarded the Marsh Volunteer Award for Marine Conservation. As well as caring for nature reserves and peatlands, Ronald is a dedicated volunteer sea-angler for the shark conservation project 'Sea Deep'. Since 2018, he has tagged over 100 sharks, skates and rays, and was the first angler to be granted a license to tag common skate for the project. His records make up 75% of all our skate records, contributing to this critically endangered species' conservation and management.

This Award is run in partnership with the Wildlife Trusts. It recognises a volunteer who has made an outstanding contribution to marine conservation and furthered the work of the Wildlife Trusts in this area.

Rays and skates are a species of fish closely related to sharks and are dorso-ventrally flattened. This gives them an added advantage to be able to glide along the sea-floor. Rays and skates are similar in appearance, and the White Skate and the Flapper Skate are just two of the 500 skate and ray species in the world. Of these 28 are found in the waters around Ireland.

Ronald, a berth holder in Bangor Marina, says " We fish anywhere between Malin Head and Belfast Lough, depending on the species we are trying to catch and the time of year. Most of the fish tagged have been on my angling friend's boat The Mistress, a Redbay 21 and perfect for angling". Ronald has a Shetland Sheltie berthed in Bangor during the summer months and from it, he targets the smaller shark species such as Black-mouthed dogfish which are a deep-water species which he has only recorded in an area between the south of Rathlin Island, off the North Coast, and the entrance to Belfast Lough in 90 m plus depth. He adds " The Flapper Skate can only be targeted by anglers trained and licensed in best practice handling these endangered animals, for tagging and collecting DNA samples".

Ronald explained " The fish would be out of the water for about a minute – we have all the tagging and DNA kit ready so as soon as the fish is landed, with the measure mat and sling for lifting them back out of the boat ready on the deck. We can recognise signs of stress so that we have a minimum impact. I have caught the same fish on three occasions, twice in the one day and then six months later".

Marina Manager Kevin Baird commented, "Well done from all the Marina team. delighted that Ronald Surgenor has been awarded the Marsh Volunteer Award for Marine Conservation".

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down.

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