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Páirc Náisiúnta na Mara, Ciarraí/ Kerry National Marine Park

Basking Sharks, Kerry National Marine Park and acoustic based research



On April 22, 2024, the Irish government announced the designation of a new national park in West Kerry. Covering more than 70,000 acres, it is the largest national park in the country. Kerry National Marine Park is also the first Irish National Park to incorporate marine features within its boundary and remit. What does this mean for basking sharks? How does this change marine conservation in Ireland? Read on to learn more, from our IBSG official statement.


Dedicated National Park legislation remains outstanding in Ireland although its adoption is an objective in the current program for government. Consequently, legal protection for marine species occupying Irish waters is established through various pathways.


The principal mechanism that affords protection to marine habitats and species in Irish waters is the European Natura 2000 network of protected sites (i.e. Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA)) established under the Habitats and Birds Directives. There are several underlying SAC and SPA sites that overlap with the Páirc Náisiúnta na Mara, Ciarraí with the core marine area supported by Kerry Head Shoals SAC, Blasket Islands SAC (marine elements only), Puffin Island SPA and The Skelligs SPA. However, due to commercial interests at the time of drafting (i.e. liver oil and shark fin fisheries), the Habitats Directive (1992/43/EEC) does not list the Basking Shark in any of the Annex lists that afford protection to marine species in EU waters. Nevertheless, in 2006 a moratorium on basking sharks was adopted under the Common Fisheries Policy, resulting in a prohibition on target fishing, retaining, transhipping and landing of basking sharks in EU waters.


In 2009 the Irish Basking Shark Group began its foundation visual tagging (mark- recapture) programme and the waters around the Blasket Islands, Kerry were quickly established as one of three key locations for tag deployment. Since that year over 150 visual tags have been deployed in Kerry waters and over 400 in Irish waters overall, highlighting the waters in the Kerry National Marine Park area as a globally significant surface hotspot for the species. Several of these tags have been re-sighted on the North Irish coast and off Scotland. Within this context, the IBSG recognised the legislative gap that the basking shark occupied in Ireland and identified the need for national legislation to ensure basking sharks enjoyed similar levels of protection when moving across jurisdictional boundaries in the NE Atlantic region. Building on the success of the visual tagging programme the group began to fund and coordinate research and public awareness programmes on basking sharks in Irish waters with a key focus on gaining protection under Irish legislation for the species. To that end, the IBSG built, over ten years, the scientific and social case for recognising the basking shark as ‘Wildlife’ and the need to afford protection to the basking shark under the Wildlife Act, 1976, as amended. In 2022 the group was successful in that aim and the basking shark was the first fish to receive the legal status of protected ‘Wildlife’. 


Looking to the future, the IBSG can approach the new Kerry National Marine Park as an opportunity to use a national level designation to establish stronger protection measures for shark species within a defined marine area. National Parks are led by Irish Government policy that the IBSG have a proven track record in changing and influencing. Moreover, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage are currently drafting new legislation that will enable Ireland to designate Marine Protected Areas beyond the requirements of the Habitats Directive and the Natura 2000 network. Preliminary engagement indicate that Basking Sharks may be considered a keystone species for the future MPA Network (largely based on Marine Strategy Framework Directive deliverables) due to the group's body of research, the species' status as ‘Wildlife’ and lack of protection under the Habitats Directive. Significantly, the Wildlife Act affords a level of protection from deliberate harassment and disturbance for listed species in their breeding place. Highlighting the importance of collating data on social behaviour when sharks are in Irish and Kerry waters, specifically putative courtship behaviour, social networks and interactions as well as the timeline and longevity of these relations.



Using proven and emerging acoustic technologies and methods, the IBSG continue to gather data that can provide a clearer understanding of the temporal use of Irish waters by basking sharks and their social behaviour when they occupy specific surface hotspots such as the new marine park.  Our findings will be used to inform conflict resolution with other space users and potential threats and pressures. Additionally, such data can build and support the case for enhanced protection measures, once national park and/or MPA legislation has been adopted. Enhanced measures are likely to take the form of targeted time and spatially constrained protection measures that prevent conflict between conservation efforts for protected species such as basking sharks and the activities of industries that seek to exploit the marine resources (i.e. fishing and tourism) in or around the waters of the park. Specifically, the IBSG seek to establish baseline information on when basking sharks are present in the park area, their dwell time and whether the same individuals return annually and/or the synchronicity of arrival and departure times.  Such data can evidence and support the development of basking sharks as a significant component of any future National Marine Park management plan. More broadly, the introduction of acoustic receivers and an acoustic tagging programme in Kerry could compliment and build on existing acoustic array infrastructure located around the coast of Ireland, specifically, the coastal array deployed at Achill, Co. Mayo and the larger Malin – Islay array that runs between Ireland and Scotland. A comprehensive network of acoustic receivers at key basking shark hotspots around the Irish coast can help answer the question of our generation, why shark encounters in these Irish coastal areas have risen in recent years when compared with other known surface hotspots in the NE Atlantic.


Finally, the IBSG have demonstrated our ability to build community support for policy change and adoption as well as influencing and nudging key decision makers towards better outcomes for sharks in Irish waters. Kerry is a political and tourist hotspot in Ireland and the new marine park can provide an opportunity to raise the profile of shark conservation efforts and shape the future of shark protection in all Irish waters and the wider NE Atlantic.

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4 Comments


Beverly Powell
Beverly Powell
5 days ago

A certain degree of protection against deliberate harassment and disturbance of designated species in their breeding areas is afforded by the Wildlife Act. Examine and analyze potential romantic conduct, social circles, and exchanges, along with the duration and dynamics of these partnerships. geometry dash subzero

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Allan Roach
Allan Roach
6 days ago

In the basket random game, try to score a basket using a single key that comes in multiple variants! When fields, players, or balls change, you are not shocked!

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thomasfrank1803
Jun 11

The Irish Basking Shark Group is doing incredible work. Their dedication to research and Buildnow GG policy change is inspiring.

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Dalerufus Willieoconnor
Dalerufus Willieoconnor
Jun 04

Bhaineas an-taitneamh as an spás gina. Is féidir taithí éifeachtach agus pleananna forbartha a fháil. Tá brí fíor le gach teachtaireacht ar an suíomh Gréasáin. Teacht ar an timpeallacht mhuirí agus tuiscint níos fearr a fháil ar scéalta smaointe geometry dash lite

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