January 2012 ~ This week saw the start of an exciting new initiative by the Inishowen based basking shark study group. The Project titled ‘Monster Munch’ will see the group bring their shark knowhow and enthusiasm into five community schools on the Inishowen peninsula. The educational programme is designed to bridge the gap between the internationally significant research carried out off Malin head and the coastal communities of the peninsula.
“We have been undertaking pioneering shark research since 2008 and now Malin head is established as one of the top three basking shark hotspots in the world, but we haven’t seen that impact on the local community in any significant way”, said the project coordinator Emmett Johnston, he added “ We realised we need to be more pro- active in engaging with the fishing communities of the peninsula and asking for their assistance with what we are trying to achieve, they can’t do that if they don’t understand what we are aiming for”.
Greencastle, Culdaff, Glengad, Malin head and Buncrana national schools will all take part in the 6 month long awareness raising initiative which is funded by the Inishowen Development Partnership and the Irish basking shark project. The interactive educational programme delivered by Oceanographer and Buncrana native Rosemary McCuskey is designed to take the students from a basic marine biology level to undertaking actual scientific surveys for basking sharks on their local stretch of water. Learning through hands on creative art is also an important aspect of the programme with Greencastle Artist Brenden Farren managing the building of a life size basking shark model between the five classes. The National Geographic Conservation Trust Scheme are also possible co funders with an application pending and a number of Television production companies have also expressed an interest in the project which will see field work start in April.