09 September 2013

Basking Shark Hotspot - Scotland

Basking Shark © Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT).
Mark Hosford, volunteer for the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT), keeps us up to date with sightings from the west coast of Scotland.

"July was a poor month for basking shark sightings off the west coast of Scotland, with only 17 reports submitted to the HWDT by members of the public, most of these sightings contained only 1 or 2 individual sharks. When it came to spotting basking sharks, the HWDT research vessel Silurian fared a little better than the public. On the evening of the 26th July, while out on the teen team survey, the Silurian encountered a group of 30 or more basking sharks. The sharks were spotted as the boat approached a safe anchorage off the west coast of Coll and with the help of the teenage volunteers the crew conducted photo-ID on the sharks that were visible on the water’s surface.

August saw a massive increase in the number of basking shark sightings reported to HWDT. We received a staggering 66 reports of these ocean behemoths. To put this jaw dropping figure into some context, we received 47 sightings of basking shark last August and a total of only 45 sightings between January and July this year. While basking sharks sightings were reported from all around the Hebrides, three areas in particularly had very high numbers of sightings, these areas included the waters around the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde, the mouth of the Sound of Mull and the waters around Coll and Tiree.  Not only has there been an increase in the number of sighting reports, there has also been an increase in the number of sharks seen in each sighting, with groups of 10 – 15 sharks commonly being seen. One group of approx. 40 sharks were spotted 6 miles west of Gunna Sound on the 6th August and another group of approx. 25 were seen off Canna on the 21st August.

HWDT were not the only organisation on the west coast interested in reports of basking sharks this summer. A team of scientists from Scottish Natural Heritage and the University of Exeter were in the Hebrides this July and August undertaking a basking shark tagging project. Despite the sparse sightings of basking sharks during July the team managed to tag a number of sharks with satellite tags, which will allow the team to follow the movements of the sharks and learn more their life history and habitat use in the areas around Coll and Tiree. To follow these tagged basking sharks, please click here.
"

Websites:
*
Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust

23 July 2013

Basking Shark Hotspot - Isle of Man

Basking Shark © Manx Basking Shark Watch.
Haley Dolton, from the Manx Wildlife Trust has kindly written a blog for the Shark Trust, keeping us up to date on all the latest Basking Shark sightings from the Isle of Man hotspot. 

"Unfortunately, since the 21st of June, we’ve had few baskers around the Isle of Man. This has been due to bad weather disturbing the stratification of zooplankton, meaning that any baskers still around the IOM will be feeding lower in the water.

Despite the lack of sharks, we have had two incredible encounters with cetaceans. On the 12th of July, a pod of risso dolphins (around 15 individuals) surrounded the boat. One came right up to the boat and had a lengthy look at both myself, and our skipper, Graham. The same individual then proceeded to breach out of the water 5 times!

On the 16th of July, we encountered around 10 adult minke whales and one juvenile. All were silhouetted by the sunset and again, they came very close and passed under our boat!

Hopefully, we will start to see some more sharks soon so we can deploy the rest of our SPOT tags and create more basking shark passports!"

Websites:

17 June 2013

Basking Shark Hotspot - Scotland

Basking Shark © Chris Denehy of Clearwater Paddling.
Jonny Adams, volunteer for the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) keeps us up to date with sightings from the west coast of Scotland.
"After a very quiet, shark free start to the 2013 research season, HWDT finally received its first report of basking sharks on the 29th May, with a total of 14 sharks seen by Christopher Dyer from his motorboat off the west coast of Lewis. The unseasonably cold sea temperatures have resulted in the first basking shark sighting being much later than in previous years. However after this very slow start to the season, the number of sharks sightings reported to HWDT is increasing weekly.

Tour boat operators and members of the public have been reporting large numbers of sharks around the Isles of Lewis and Harris and from the Ullapool area and smaller numbers of sharks around Coll, Tiree and Mull. One lucky whale watching tour operator and his passengers were treated to a rare spectacle recently when they witnessed 3 basking sharks leaping clear of the water and slapping back down again with a splash.

It’s not only the tour operators who are getting in on the action, the HWDT research vessel Silurian encountered its first basking sharks of the season at Gunna Sound, a basking shark hotspot between the Islands of Coll and Tiree, on the 3rd June. A distinctive wedge-like dorsal fin was spotted by a member of the crew as they surveyed the waters of the Sound and before long the crew confirmed the presence of 4 sharks, all of which were foraging at the surface in the tidal lines. The crew were able to capture a number of photo-Identification pictures before leaving the sharks to feed in peace.       

Unfortunately not all basking shark sightings are happy one’s. On the 7th June HWDT received a report of a basking shark that had become trapped in Loch Ob, a tidal loch on the east coast of Barra. It is beleaved that the shark entered the loch on a spring tide and that it is possible that it may be trapped in the loch until the next spring tide. HWDT have had no further reports of the shark and we hope that it has managed to navigate its way out of the loch on a high tide.
"

Websites:
*
Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust

Basking Shark Hotspot - Isle of Man

Basking Shark © Manx Basking Shark Watch.
Haley Dolton, from the Manx Wildlife Trust has kindly written a blog for the Shark Trust, keeping us up to date on all the latest Basking Shark sightings from the Isle of Man hotspot. 

"It has been a busy couple of weeks for MBSW.  Forty-one basking shark sightings since the 5th of May have been reported to us from the public! 

We have conducted many surveys on board Happy jack and have seen some amazing sights recently! A couple of days were without sharks, but we were joined by another pod of risso dolphins that included two calves.

During a dedicated search on Happy Jack, a basker (of around 5.5m in length) breached! It could not have been more than 150m from the boat and was an amazing sight! Another smaller shark (around 2.5m) also breached near the boat. This is the first time an immature shark has been observed breaching by MBSW, so we were very lucky to see it!

On the 8th and 9th of June, basking sharks could be easily spotted at Niarbyl and Peel and provided MBSW with many opportunities to conduct scientific research.

The crew of Happy Jack has collected 17 DNA samples and deployed four out of ten SPOT5 tags. You can follow the daily progress of MBSW’s tagged sharks here
.

We are hoping this is a great start to a productive shark season!"

Websites:

11 June 2013

Basking Shark Hotspot - Cornwall

Dolphin © Annabelle Lowe.
Annabelle Lowe from Atlantic Diver in Newquay, has kindly written this blog for the Shark Trust, keeping us up to date with all the latest Basking Shark sightings in Cornwall. 

"A few days of long hot weather has bought much of the zooplankton close to the surface. Swarms of large Moon Jellyfish and Blue Jellyfish are now about 2m from the surface so we are intensely watching the water as we go about our dives and sea safaris, for that iconic fin breaking the surface…but no breaches seen yet. The sea is shimmering with large patches of scrummy plankton…it’s a dinner bell to all those Baskers out there…so hopefully any day now, as we are hearing of sightings of individual sharks coming in from our colleagues down West Cornwall. Come on Sharks!."

Websites:

Basking Shark Hotspot - Isle of Man

Basking Shark © Manx Basking Shark Watch.
Haley Dolton, from the Manx Wildlife Trust has kindly written a blog for the Shark Trust, keeping us up to date on all the latest Basking Shark sightings from the Isle of Man hotspot. 

"Despite the unseasonably cold sea temperatures for this time of year, MBSW have still been receiving basking shark sightings. On the last calm day (the 28th of May) we had 10 reports of basking sharks around the island!

MBSW’s research vessel, Happy Jack, is now in the water and on our test run of new equipment, we were lucky enough to have an encounter with a pod of risso dolphins! Unfortunately, they did not want to hang around, but we did get to see some impressive aerial displays.

Our new SPOT tags are programmed and ready to go, we just need some calm weather and of course, sharks!
"

Websites:

23 May 2013

Basking Shark Hotspot - Isle of Man

Basking Shark © Manx Basking Shark Watch.
Haley Dolton, from the Manx Wildlife Trust has kindly written a blog for the Shark Trust, keeping us up to date on all the latest Basking Shark sightings from the Isle of Man hotspot. 

"The basking shark season has well and truly begun on the Isle of Man! The first sharks were spotted by the public on the 14th of May and have continued to be seen up to the 19th of May. 

Sightings have been reported from the traditional basking shark hotspots of Peel, Niarbyl, Bradda Head and Port Erin. Schools of four individuals have been observed on a couple of occasions enjoying the rich, Manx plankton. This is interesting, as sightings of larger schools will hopefully mean we will observe some interesting behaviour between individuals this year.

A boat survey was carried out onboard Girl Pat with Manx Whale and Dolphin Watch on the 19th of May and a 6-7m basking shark was spotted! It swam directly underneath the boat, displaying its massive size very effectively against our small boat.

The finishing touches are being made to the Manx Basking Shark Watch boat, Happy Jack, and we should be in the water very soon deploying the 10 tags we have this year!
"

Websites:

09 May 2013

Basking Shark Hotspot - Cornwall

Basking Shark © Annabelle Lowe. 
Annabelle Lowe from Atlantic Diver in Newquay, has kindly written this blog for the Shark Trust, keeping us up to date with all the latest Basking Shark sightings in Cornwall. 

"The Basking Shark season has begun on the North Cornwall Coast, as the warmer, sunny Cornish days have bought a few patches of plankton to the surface. A small Basking Shark was reported by a commercial potting boat at 8 miles west of Newquay...feeding open mouthed, circling at the surface. News of other sightings from our Cornwall Marine Life Boat Operators Group are also coming in, with a total of 8 seen this past couple of weeks at Falmouth, Porth Kerris, Lands End, Newquay and Lundy.

We are spotting for further sharks as the gorgeous spring sunshine continues....with Tope, in particular, coming in during our deep sea fishing trips.
"

Websites:

Basking Shark Hotspot - Ireland

Image © Irish Basking shark Project.
Nick Massett from the Irish Basking shark Project, updates us with the latest sightings in Co. Kerry, SW Ireland.

"The first sighting in Ireland this year was of two basking sharks on April 4th off Slea Head, County Kerry, which was fairly consistent with the pattern seen over the last ten years here. A couple more sightings subsequently followed in the next couple of days from Counties Waterford in the south-east and Donegal in the north-west; they had ‘arrived’. In the following week numbers began to build off Slea Head with sightings of 6 and then 12 sharks seen on shore watches; unfortunately due to the difficult prevailing sea conditions no boat work was able to be carried out. This was all against a backdrop of cool northerly winds and below normal sea surface temperatures, in the region of 9 degrees centigrade. For the second half of April sightings then dropped off again with just one or two animals seen briefly at the surface and the odd breaching shark recorded. In the last week conditions improved dramatically with warmer south westerlies, and a subsequent increase in air and sea temps, though still below normal. But despite the intensive observer effort, both from shore and boat, no sharks were showing.

No plankton surveys have been carried out in Kerry as of yet but anecdotal evidence from divers reporting good visibility indicates little sign of a bloom. There has been little sign of the usual sand-eel run that coincides with the plankton bloom here also, but some common dolphin and minke whale activity is being observed.

Word from our colleagues in the NW working in Donegal where some great tagging work has been undertaken (see www.baskingshark.ie ) is similar with a few shark sightings trickling in. They have the boat in the water and are ready for action once the sharks appear and conditions are favourable for fieldwork again.

So despite the seemingly consistent arrival of the sharks, we’re just going to have to wait and see how the season develops here and how the food chain shapes up once water temps rise
."

Websites:
* Irish Basking Shark Project Website
* Irish Basking Shark Project on Facebook
*
The Shark Trust

* The Shark Trust Basking Shark Project

03 May 2013

Basking Shark Hotspot - Cornwall

Basking Shark © Andrew Pearson.
The Shark Trust's Conservation Officer, John Richardson, keeps us up to date with the latest Basking Shark reports. 

"AK Wildlife Cruisers, a Falmouth-based wildlife tour operator, reported the first Basking Shark sighting of the season on the 15th April. The 8m long shark was spotted feeding near the Old Wall (a popular dive site), off St. Antony’s Lighthouse on Cornwall’s Rose Peninsula.

From May til late October, these graceful giants patrol UK and Irish waters feeding on plankton but with sea temperatures around the Southwest still below 10°C, phytoplankton growth is much reduced compared to this time last year. With less phytoplankton in the water column, zooplankton, in turn, is not present in the volume which usually draws Basking Sharks into surface waters to feed.

However, with forecasts suggesting spring is on the horizon, keep an eye out for Britain’s largest shark - especially in all UK and Irish hot-spots: England’s Southwest, the Isle of Man, the west coast of Scotland and the northern coast of Ireland.

The Shark Trust’s Basking Shark Project records Basking Shark sightings, predominantly reported in British waters, in order to better understand the migration patterns of this vulnerable species.

Shark enthusiasts of all ages can get involved in this project by keeping an eye out for Basking Sharks during the warmer months and submitting their sightings to our online database with as much information as possible.

Please note: water users should always remember to adhere to our Basking Shark Code of Conduct to ensure a safe, positive interaction between human and shark."

Websites:
*
The Shark Trust