Conservation Photography, News, Sharks

Sharks and the last Dutch 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.



Difficult summer season

This season was a season of hard work for small catches. And very low numbers of sharks. The combination of a long, very cold spring, a suddenly hot summer and prevailing southern winds had a negative impact.

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. The shark shots were published in Dutch National Geographic.


See all pictures at:!prettyPhoto










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