THE last thing you expect to find in the middle of a Paisley housing estate is the nerve centre for a shark protection charity.
But that’s exactly what Denis Kelly’s home in Lounsdale Drive is.
Retired carpenter Denis is chipping away at people’s misconceptions about sharks – creatures he says nobody should fear.
As secretary of the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network (SSACN) Denis, 59, is involved in efforts to protect the future of species including tope, smoothound and spurdog.
And this was done at an event called Sharkatag in the Solway Firth recently when 212 anglers caught more than 200 sharks.
The creatures were tagged and put back in the water where they belong.
Buddie Denis explained: “Sharks are not to be feared. If you go fishing, the closest you will get to a shark is a dogfish.
“Sharks will avoid people mostly, and there is little real danger of people encountering a shark. A basking shark is the one people are most likely to see.
“If you are out fishing, these will come up close, and around 120 have been identified in Scotland in the past 10 years.
“Basking sharks have a very rounded fin and grow up to four metres long – around the length of a double decker bus!
“During Sharkatag we were looking to tag more than 100 tope. These are also called soupfin sharks because the Chinese use them for soup.
“Eighty tonnes of shark fins are being used in Britain for shark fin soup. In the UK, 17 licences have been requested, including in Ayr and Ullapool, and what these people do is cut the shark’s fin off when it is still alive. It is a status symbol.”
The Sharkatag saw anglers fishing from the shore, sailing kayaks and boats to catch and tag tope, smoothound and spurdog, and also collecting data on other species.
The event was not a competition and the main aim was to tag and also highlight the need for shark, ray and skate conservation in Scottish waters.
Respect for the sharks is paramount during tagging, and Denis explained: “Sharks have no bones. They are all cartilage and have no rib cage, so we have to treat them very delicately when we tag them and just cradle them.
“We take them onboard with a line and hook, then take the hook out and cover their heads to keep them calm.
“We use a cannula, which is like a big hypodermic needle, to set the tag under the skin. This has a number on it which means the sharks can be tracked down when they are re-caught. Even some fishermen who catch them send us back the details.”
Denis has been fishing since he was four-years-old, but he has never killed a single fish or brought one home.
SSACN has around 200 members across the UK, mainly in Scotland, and was started up in July 2007.
The first meeting took place at The Watermill Hotel in Paisley and things have rapidly expanded over the past two years.
The charity wants the Scottish government and fisheries managers to make more effort to protect sharks.
It says that until the government starts field research and takes positive action to gather evidence about the numbers of various species we have events like Sharkatag will be held to do as much as possible.
Denis added: “Sharkatag held in Luce Bay and the Solway was a tremendous success. A total of 212 anglers, participating at their own expense, tagged more than 200 tope sharks, huss, smoothhounds and ray.
“These were mainly smaller sharks, with one or two big females, proving our project is working. The feedback from the anglers was 100 per cent that they will be back next year.”