HARTLEPOOL is to be included in a new conservation project to protect sharks.
Fishermen will be given training to identify and record different species in their waters as part of efforts to help protect the threatened fish.
The project, launched yesterday, by the Co-operative and the Shark Trust will also focus on ports in Yorkshire, Humberside, Lancashire and Cumbria.
It aims to increase knowledge of shark populations in the region and improve their long-term prospects.
The Shark Trust is currently analysing data to see how many tonnes of shark, skates and rays have been landed in ports in recent years.
It says data for Hartlepool suggests the port has had significant catches, although less than other places.
More than half of British shark species are threatened with extinction, according to project leaders.
Chris Shearlock, sustainable development manager at the Co-operative, said: “We know shark populations in British waters have declined dramatically in recent years.
“But as little importance has traditionally been given to shark stocks compared to more commercial species, detailed information for individual species is hard to ascertain.
“We are providing species identification training with a range of support materials to ensure sharks, which are vital to the health of our fisheries, receive the level of protection they need.”
Ali Hood, the Shark Trust’s director of conservation, said: “The Irish and North Seas support a rich diversity of shark, skate and ray species, many of which have experienced significant population declines in recent decades.
It is estimated that as many as 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, but the number caught by fleets overall is higher as many are caught accidentally.