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About the Monster Munch Project

Inishowen Basking Shark Community Awareness Programme

The Monster Munch project aims to engage the fishing communities of Inishowen on a personal level and develop a working relationship between local people and the scientific community undertaking research on the Inishowen coast.

The project will deliver an educational programme promoting the Basking Shark into five coastal community schools on the Inishowen peninsula namely: Malin Head, Glengad, Culdaff, Greencastle and Buncrana.

This will involve a number of separate elements

  1. A three day in class educational programme – on maritime heritage, marine biology and conservation

  2. An in class Art project – construction of a single life size basking shark by the 5 schools

  3. Two single day field trips per class ; To their local pier and surveying for sharks in a fully licensed boat

  4. The deployment of Five satellite tracking tags on basking sharks off Inishowen coast – each community will adopt a shark and track their movements via the google maps web tracker.

  5. A competition on reporting of shark sightings promoting community engagement.

  6. A final presentation day of project outputs, including the life size shark model, posters and talks by students. Locally linked marine professionals will also speak at the event which will be held in Greencastle

Timed Depth Recoder Tagged off Malin Head © E. Johnston 2011

Inishowen Basking Shark Study Group is a locally based sub- group of the Irish Basking Shark Project which aims to promote the conservation and scientific study of basking sharks in Inishowen and Irish waters by ensuring their protection, increasing awareness and improving our understanding of their ecology and habitat requirements

We have members who are Marine biologists, Fishermen, Community leaders, Wildlife enthusiasts, Lifeboat crew, Leisure boat owners and interested members of community.


The Inishowen tourism industry is at a critical stage in its development. The sector needs champion projects to raise its profile and show what the peninsula has to offer. The basking shark project on Inishowen has significantly raised the profile of the area as well as delivering scientific research of international significance. A good working relationship has been formed between a number of different stakeholders with separate goals; Inishowen Development Partnership, Queens University Belfast and the Irish Basking Shark Study Group. Over the past 5 years we have laid the foundations for a large scale marine based project based around Malin head. Since the successful completion of the Depth Charge project in 2011 we found that further engagement by the local community is needed to take the project onto the next step. We feel the local community should be encouraged to take ownership of the species and view the sharks as a sustainable tourism resource. A targeted project which encourages the community to engage with the species on many levels may be the catalyst for local ownership developing.

The fishing and coastal communities have much to offer Inishowen tourism and the basking shark is an ideal medium through which their knowledge and enthusiasm for their own local environs can be utilised. The project will increase the awareness, appreciation and knowledge of basking shark around the Inishowen peninsula and Irish/UK waters. It will also raise a positive profile of the area with national, regional and International media.


The project will engage 5 community based schools on the coast of Inishowen and tasks the students to assist with increasing the whole community’s awareness and appreciation of the basking shark. Each school will undertake an interactive programme of art and science projects (proposed as Jan – May one day a month), during which they will learn about the basking shark throughout history and shark ecology. The students will engage in a bridge building art project by creating a fifth part of a life size basking shark, i.e. tail, mouth dorsal fin etc. which will then be brought together for a final presentation in June.


Each of the five communities will have a wildlife Computers PAT10F Fastloc ARGOS system satellite tagged shark to name. These tags have not been deployed on any shark species before and once deployed they will potentially transmit their location in real time (2- 3 day relay time). The students and communities will be able to follow their adopted shark via a new google mapping system on the existing website We aim to deploy tags in April or May and each tag lasts approximately 5 months. The tags will also provide valuable scientific data which will be used to promote shark conservation, publication of research and aid species management decisions.


To complete the project a presentation day will be held in Greencastle during which each community will be given an opportunity to display their projects and present a talk on their chosen shark subjects. On the day we will also invite presentations from professional marine biologists who have a local connection. This project will take applied science into the classroom and remote coastal communities. It will build bridges between fishing dependent communities and professional marine scientists who often make decisions on marine conservation matters.


The Inishowen Basking Shark Study Group have secured 75% funding from the Inishowen Development Partnership and are fronting the remaing 25% themselfs.


Project Coordinator: Emmett Johnston

Emmett has over 12 year’s professional experience in ecological conservation. He has coordinated internationally pioneering shark research in Inishowen waters since 2008. Emmett has assisted and guided numerous high profile television and radio documentary teams on the North coast of Donegal including, BBC N.I. Waterford series, RTE Wild Journeys series, BBC 2 Monty Halls Great Irish Escape, UTV Lesser Spotted Ulster series, BBC Radio Ulster Shore Stories series. He is also a volunteer crew member with Lough Swilly RNLI.

Educational Delivery: Rosemary McCloskey

Rosemary holds a Degree in oceanography, Southampton University and is current Marine Masters student at Swansea University. Rosemary brings subject specific educational experience and as a native of Buncrana, local community knowledge. She previously volunteered as a field assistant with the project in 2010 and 2011.

Creative Art: Brenden Farren

Brenden brings substantial experience in the delivery of community led creative art projects including the Greencastle Drondhiem Mural. He has previous experience in building a life size basking shark head for the first national basking shark seminar, this is now on permanent display in the Maritime Museum, Greencastle.

Scientific Research Oversee: Dr Jonathan Houghton

Dr Houghton is Lecturer of Marine Biology at Queen University Belfast, and has over 15 years experience leading marine mega-fauna telemetry research including the satellite tracking of Irish leatherback Turtles, Sun Fish ( mola mola) and jellyfish.

Website development: Matt Johnston

Matt brings professional expertise in the design and maintenance of web based databases and satellite tracking portals. Current conservation centred sites include,, and

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