Tony to live among the sharks

PUBLISHED: 17:19 17 April 2008 | UPDATED: 08:59 10 June 2010

A WOODBURY Salterton shark spotter is taking part in a trip-of-a-lifetime to uncover ground-breaking research charting the variety of the species.

A WOODBURY Salterton shark spotter is taking part in a trip-of-a-lifetime to uncover ground-breaking research charting the variety of the species.

Tony Bennett, 46, has left for Kuwait with the Shark Conservation Society (SCS) on a two-week expedition to identify the number of shark species in the Kuwaiti and Gulf seas.

Mr Bennett is teaming up with shark conservationist Richard Peirce to gather valuable data, which is hoped will become the basis of a much larger study in the future.

Keen scuba diver Mr Bennett, who has been a member of the society for several years, said: "I am very excited. It's going to be something completely different, something I have never experienced before.

"It's a ground-breaking expedition. There's never really been anything like this done before. They don't know much about the species.

"I have never been involved with a research project before. It's a real opportunity of a lifetime. There will be a lot of people who are very experienced."

During his time in Kuwait married Mr Bennett will be in one of three teams involved in a variety of work.

One team will be at sea placing bait in the water - known as 'chumming' - to attract sharks which are then caught on a rod and line, identified, photographed and filmed before being returned to the sea.

Others will visit Kuwait's three fish markets to identify and record the species for sale.

Mr Peirce, who began planning the expedition two years ago, is a past trustee of the Basking Shark Society, a co-founder of the International White Shark Exploration Group, sponsor of the Shark Angling Club of Great Britain's tagging programme, partner of the eco-tourist operator Shark Cornwall, director of Richard Peirce Shark Conservation (RPSC), chairman of the UK based Shark Trust, and is a well known writer and broadcaster on shark conservation affairs.

He said: "In scientific terms, what will be gained will only be a snapshot. However, it might provide some startling revelations and, provided it's valid, will produce valuable data.

"The hope is that another Kuwaiti group or voluntary body will carry on using this expedition as a model and conduct similar exercises in the future.

"Over a period of years, the information gained will provide a fully credible scientific picture.

"Volunteers from SCS will be prepared to come back in future years to assist Kuwait groups with further expeditions.

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