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Basking sharks aplenty in the Kingdom

Sunday, 24 April 2011 18:16
Lucy Hunt ready to tag
Lucy Hunt ready to tag
(c) Emmett Johnston

A text message from tom Hands of Dingle on the 19 April informing me of two basking sharks near his mooring off Great Blasket alerted us to the presence of these magnificent animals off Kerry. I forwarded the message to Nick Massett who during a watch that evening watched (and photographed) one shark breaching three times. The weather was forecast to be excellent on 20 April so we decided to try our first basking shark research trip to Kerry for the season.

An experienced crew of Simon Berrow, Lucy Hunt and skipper Nick Massett on his 6m RIB "Miol Mor" met an Ventry, along with my father who at 82 wanted to see basking sharks before he died ! As well as seeking basking sharks Lucy was collecting zooplankton samples as part of her work on trying to determine what drives the presence of these animals in inshore Irish waters.

During our first plankton sampling at Fahan we got a call from Mick Sheeran of 4 basking sharks off his mooring at Tra Mor on Great Blasket. We found them easily cruising in a line back and forth in from of the magnificent sandy beach on Great Blasket.

After a hour when we tagged five animals and took plankton samples we decided to visit Coomenole and Wild Bank to collect more plankton and head for Ventry. We found another two sharks off Slea Head and on our way into Dingle bay found more on the surface with five in one group feeding nose to tail. An amazing site and one to satisfy the desires of an 82 year old man.  We tagged another 10 sharks before we had to head for Ventry for us to get the last ferry back to Co Clare.  This is early for us but a recent email from colleague Eric Stephan at APECS in France informed us that sharks have appeared very early off the Brittany coast this year.

So a great start to the season in Kerry with 15 sharks tagged. During the whole of last year we only manage to tag five off Co Kerry !! Sharks in Kerry are given a green tag, which show well underwater, so if anybody sees a green tagged shark it is from the Kingdom.

Many thanks to Tom Hand and Mick Sheeran for their continued support.