09 May 2013

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

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

* The Shark Trust Basking Shark Project