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Basking Sharks Return!

Basking Shark Head  © E. Johnston

September has seen a return of basking shark sightings around the coast of Inishowen, Co. Donegal with large aggregations reported off Malin head and even as far west as Tory Island.

This is the first year that basking sharks have been recorded in such large numbers during September. The shark survey team deployed three more visual tags during opportunistic encounters with the sharks. Calm waters and sunny weather has brought increased densities of zooplankton (basking shark food) to the surface in Irelands basking shark hotspot. This late spike in sightings raises the possibility that the basking sharks have been present on our coast for the whole summer period but weather conditions have not been suitable to bring about sufficient zooplankton abundance on the water surface. Have they been feeding at lower depths or surfacing during the night?

These are some of the questions the Irish basking shark project is hoping to answer when they receive the results of their satellite tag deployments near the end of October. The project team successfully completed their objectives for 2009 and is now preparing for the announcement of a number of new initiatives during the Irish basking shark seminar at the end of October.

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