Sunday the 24th of August saw the first break in the strong northerly winds on the north coast since shark sightings have begun to filter in this August. Low wind speeds and a southeasterly direction provided near perfect conditions for the early start of the day when small groups of sharks were encountered all along the Inishowen coastline by the Malin Head-based research team.
The last three satellite transmitters were deployed onto sharks found in an aggregation of 5-6 sharks near Dunaff Head at the mouth of Lough Swilly. It will be interesting to see how the newly designed tags from CATS.is perform and how the individual animals utilise the Malin Head area and associate with each other over the next number of days. Updates will be available on this website from time to time on the movement of the animals.
As the day progressed, sea conditions deteriorated. However, a large numbers of sharks were still reported from south of Malin Head off Ineuran Bay and a whale (presumably Minke, identified by the lack of a visible blow) and several groups of porpoise were also encountered during a number of shark "sliming" sessions.
Ten sharks were slimed to add to the growing international DNA database on basking sharks using the technique first developed at Malin Head by Dr. Simon Berrow of the IBSSG and Lilian Lieber and her supervisors at the University of Aberdeen. The international database of shark slime is being used to investigate the movement of individual animals as well as shark associations and population connectivity and growth. As the database grows, so too will the type of questions that can be answered using this analysis method.
The sharks have been on the coast for nearly two weeks now and plankton has been extremely dense in feeding areas. Another weather window may develop towards the end of the week to allow for further study and sampling. After the lack of sightings this summer on the north coast, this recent influx raises some questions about the movement of the species as a whole and as individuals.
Check back soon for details of the sharks movements.