Basking sharks leave Irish waters in search of winter sun - PHOTOS
Previously hunted off the coast of Ireland, harmless Basking Sharks are studied intently by Irish group
A number of years ago, Dr. Simon Berrow, a co-founder of the group, noticed a parasite on the sharks called pannella when undertaking shark tagging off Malin head. This parasite is often recorded on cetaceans which have travelled through tropical waters so the group have had an inkling that basking sharks visiting Irish shores might have travelled through warmer waters prior to arriving on our coast. However, in marine biology circles it is one thing to propose theories and another to actually prove them.
The Monster Munch project was set up to bridge the gap between marine scientists undertaking research and the local communities in which the work is undertaken. The Inishowen Development Partnership, Queens University Belfast, and the Irish basking shark study group funded the initiative which delivered a primary school based awareness programme encouraging local fishing dependent communities on the Inishowen peninsula in Co. Donegal to take ownership of the basking shark species and assist in its conservation.
Malin head on the Inishowen peninsula, where the shark ‘Banba’ was originally tagged and named by pupils at Scoil Naomh Mhuire, has recently been recognised as one of the world’s top summer hotspots for the basking shark. Banba’s magnificent journey to the Cape Verdes from the waters off Malin head is a valuable piece in the elusive jigsaw of the lifecycle of the sharks. This new finding by may prove to be a significant insight into the underwater world of one of the most endangered and iconic sharks in the Atlantic Ocean.
For more information and to see a magnificent video of the shark, log on to www.baskingshark.ie.
** Emmett Johnston works with the Irish Basking Shark Study Group