First basking sharks of 2014...Update23rd Apr 2014
Report update, 23/04/2014
A quick review of basking shark sightings validated by IWDG in the past week suggests that if you want to see the planet's second largest fish, you should be heading towards West Kerry, and watch the inshore area between Ventry harbour and Slea Head. On April 18th, Nick Massett reported 7 sharks around the Blasket Islands, this tally increased to an impressive 11 sharks off Slea Head on April 19th, and yesterday 22nd, another 6 basking sharks were recorded during a land based watch off Slea Head. While there are clearly basking sharks in other southwest areas, the large aggregations seem to be off West Kerry. This may be as a result of cold easterly winds in the past week, which are keeping sea surface temperatures cooler along the Irish South coast. We'll keep you updated on this perennial story.
Report 1, 21/04/2014
The Spring has finally sprung and the weather is warming up or that’s what one might interpret when seeing the leviathan basking sharks back along our coastline! The first basking sharks reported were at the Blasket islands, Co Kerry on the 14th of April by avid marine wildlife enthusiast and longstanding Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) member; Nick Massett. Initially there was one shark but as the morning progressed it was clear that there were approximately six sharks feeding on the plankton rich tide lines around the Blaskets. Nick was joined by Stephen Comerford and Lucy Hunt (both IWDG members) at Slea Head where they enjoyed a display of multi species diversity including minke whales (approx. 6), common dolphins (approx. 100), basking sharks and many species of seabirds all feeding south of the Blaskets. It was a sight to behold with a few ‘O my Gods’ and ‘Jeeny mackers’ passing their lips as they looked through their eye pieces observing all the action with a few minke whales very closeby just under Slea Head. A second basking shark report came in from Cape Clear, Co. Cork of one single shark on the 15th of April. With the good forecast for the weekend we are asking everyone to please report all basking sharks to the IWDG website the main portal for marine sightings on www.iwdg.ie
Basking sharks start to appear in Irish coastal waters during the Spring plankton blooms when the water warms up. Basking sharks can reach upto 12 meters in length and are the second largest shark after the whale shark which is found in tropical waters. The recent sunshine may have increased the zooplankton in the water, which is the main food source for the leviathan sharks. They generally show a peak in abundance in May and June but have been recorded between February and December. There have been over 1700 basking shark sightings of over 5800 sharks reported around the island of Ireland over a 34 year period. We would like you to get involved with the Irish basking shark project and if you see any basking sharks whilst out on or near the water please report on the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group website http://www.iwdg.ie/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=2117
Also please follow the Shark Trust Basking shark code of conduct should you be so lucky to see these amazing animals whilst aboard a vessel or in the water! http://www.sharktrust.org/en/basking_shark_resources
By Lucy Hunt, IWDG