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Inshore Sightings Begin

The month of March is not normally associated with high numbers of shark sightings in Irelands inshore waters but the recent high pressure established over the North East Atlantic has given rise to ideal basking shark sighting conditions. Reports have started to trickle in from around the islands west coast, including large aggregations around Loop head and the Aran Islands.

One of five basking sharks spotted off Loop head at the end of March © Robert Howard 2012

Basking sharks sightings normally peek during May – June but in 2011, April produced some of the largest aggregations with over 50% of sharks tagged in that month. Interestingly the old ‘Sun Fish’ hunters of the 1800’s often talked of April and May being the peek sightings period. Between 2006 and 2010 late May has usually experienced the highest surface activity levels however 2011 never saw large aggregations form on the surface after the initial April shoals. Large sharks were also in the minority during the later months of July and August with the highest proportion of sub 4m sharks recorded off Donegal since 2006. What 2012 will bring is anyone’s guess.

The tagging season has yet to start but the teams in Donegal and Kerry are confident that baring another hurricane in May this season will be a mile stone for the Irish project. 2012 will see a number of different tag types deployed on the sharks, each looking at separate aspects of the shark’s life history. It is an anxious preparatory period for the teams who are keenly focused on the projects main aim of, gathering sufficient data to justify legislative protection for the species in Irish waters. A principal component of this data collection is the collation of sightings records, your observations are valuable pieces of data and directly contribute to the case for protection in Irish waters.

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