Basking shark sightings are starting to trickle into the project teams around the country as days of calm waters have created excellent surface encounter conditions. The Irish Navy were the first in 2011 to report a sighting off the south coast followed by sightings at the Blasket islands, Donegal Bay, Inishboffin, Garvan Isles off Malin Head and finally three together just off Malin Head Pier.
These sightings are early in comparison to previous years but these creatures are extremely unpredictable and relatively little is known about what drives their movements. It was taught water temperature and plankton densities were responsible but recent research based in Ireland might indicate that previously noted thresholds and drivers for feeding and surfacing are now not accurate.
Studying basking sharks is often not an exact science, and research teams need to be ready at the drop of a hat. The sharks have certainly caught all the Irish based teams off guard this year, as their preparations are still ongoing. Most studies are focused around May - June, which usually sees the peek in surface encounters. This year the Irish based teams will be continuing their Internationally significant work, they have formed new partnerships and have developed a number of new tags for deployment. The Irish basking shark project hope that by this season's end Ireland will be closer to establishing legislative protection for basking sharks in Irish waters.