Dutch Sharks & the Last Weir Fishers

All pictures: Peter Verhoog, text: Georgina Wiersma / Dutch Shark Society

Sharks are returning to the Dutch waters! There has been a tagging programme for the last two years, that has been set up by Imares, commissioned by Sportvisserij Nederland,  the recreational angling union. Each year, recreational anglers catch, tag and release smooth-hound sharks (Mustelus asterias and Mustelus mustelus) and a small number of tope sharks (Galeorhinus galeus).

A tagged smooth-hound shark is carefully lowered into the water

In the most eastern part of the Eastern Schelde, family company Van Dort exploits the last Dutch weirs, catching anchovies.  Peter and Georgina a had the immense privilege to go out with the fishermen and get to know this ancient method of sustainable fishing.  Fishermen Cor, Henk, Gerard and  Piet tag the sharks they find in their weirs.

What is weir fishing? 

fishing weir, or fish weir, is an obstruction placed in tidal waters or wholly or partially across a river, which is designed to hinder the passage of fish. The Dutch weirs are built from wooden posts, mostly oak, connected by netting. Weirs were already used in the Bronze Age in Sweden!

A weir in the Eastern Schelde. Picture: Wiki Commons


Weirs capture fish as they swim along with the current. The fish swim in and are trapped within the weir: they can still get out through the opening, but shoals of fish swim in circles and will mostly pass the opening without exiting. When the water level has fallen, the fishermen drag net through the weir to get the fish in their boat.



Vibility in the weir is maximum one meter only, and the weirs are around 20 x 35 metres… All fish can move freely through the whole weir, so taking pictures is not an easy task! Still, with a lot of patience, long waits and many trips to the weirs, Peter managed to get some great shots. He saw sharks only once, for a total time of just 22 seconds... The shark shots were published in Dutch National Geographic and are the first pictures of Mustelus spec. in Dutch waters ever!

All images © Peter Verhoog 2000-2018

All rights reserved / Images can only be used with prior written permission of the photographer.

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