While many of us were relaxing on the beaches around the coast of our Atlantic washed Island, a team of Irelands leading marine biologists were hard at work hunting one of Irelands most iconic marine species, the Basking shark. These sharks are no ordinary creatures, growing up to 10m in length and often weighing over 3 tons one would think they are pretty hard to miss. However, miss them we do, for 8 months of the year the basking shark disappears with little trace only to return to our shores in what appears to be ever increasing numbers. Scientists have been baffled for centuries by this creature's habits and life cycle.
The scientific team with the Irish basking shark project, has been operating for only three years, hopes to unravel the behavioural mystery about the second largest fish in the Oceans. The 2010 season started with a splash as the team managed to deploy 100 individual tags on sharks in one weekend off the coast of Malin head and the Inishowen peninsula. Last year the team deployed 106 tags through out the whole season of May - September, and hopes are now high that they can build on this success with further deployments through out the country in Cork, Kerry, Galway and Mayo.
The Irish based team who have quickly become world leaders in the shark research field and are aiming to gather enough robust data on the species to see it gain protection around the Irish coast. Although the E.U. has imposed a zero fishing quota on the basking shark, it is not protected in Irish territorial waters under Irish legislation. The project, which has received assistance from the Heritage Council, works closely with a number of universities including GMIT. This year the team intends to deploy a number of prototype tags, which use satellite and VHF radio waves to track the sharks under and above the water. It is believed these electronic based tags will give the team an increased arsenal in their quest to discover the elusive shark's habits.