20 July 2012

Basking Shark Hotspot - Scotland

Underwater Basking Shark © Lionel Davoustk.
Lionel Davoust, Volunteer for the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT), informs us about all the latest Basking Shark sightings in Scotland.

"We are not even near the end of July and it’s already been a very busy month for Basking Sharks again off western Scotland! As I’m writing, there have already been 56 sharks sighted around the Hebrides reported to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust through the sightings community. 

Most encounters being with groups of 4 to 6 individuals.  However, more numerous groups have been reported, such as one of 8 individuals on the 6th, far to the west of Oigh Sgeir (Hyskeir lighthouse). One of their favourite hotspots remains the Isle of Coll, particularly a group of low reefs and skerries to the east called the Cairns of Coll. Three groups of 6 animals were sighted in this area alone: on the 10th, 12th and 16th. Seeing these gentle giants of the sea surface peacefully in a glass-like sea under the silvery sky of Scotland always inspires a feeling of reverence, for scientists and wildlife lovers alike. We were lucky enough to witness several sightings and take a few good photos which will hopefully help the Shark Trust identify the animals.

The Isle of Tiree is also an excellent hotspot for the sharks, where a single group of 52 individuals was sighted in June! It still remains the place where the largest group has been sighted since then: 14 individuals on the 11th, but there were 4 more sightings over the course of a single week, with groups numbering 3 to 4 animals.

It is thus no surprise that these two islands are the main focus of a current tagging project, undertaken by the University of Exeter. The researchers are currently working from Tobermory to tag the animals; this technique allows the scientists to retrieve a wealth of information that goes a long way towards a better understanding and conservation of the populations. Once the sharks are tagged, you can follow their movements yourself online. For more information about the project, please click here. To follow the tagged Basking Shark movements, please click here."