Leaping Sharks The Size Of Buses Launch The Start Of The Basking Shark Spotting Season.
Breaching animals already seen off UK coast
Sightings of Britains largest fish, the enigmatic basking shark, have increased in recent weeks in UK waters says the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).
40 sharks have so far been reported to MCS, including 14 from Scotland, 1 from Wales, another 2 from County Mayo in Ireland and 23 from Devon and Cornwall, where two reports involved sharks leaping clear of the water, a behavior known as breaching.
MCS is encouraging the public to report their sightings as part of their Basking Shark Watch programme to try and better understand the behaviour of these massive animals.
Basking sharks are feeding in UK waters again this summer and we encourage anyone who sees one to report it to us on the new MCS website, said Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, MCS Biodiversity Policy Officer, These recent reports of breaching basking sharks are very interesting because the behavior is barely understood but could be associated with a form of communication. The more we hear about them the more we are likely to understand their significance.
The Marine Conservation Societys Basking Shark Watch programme has been running since 1987 and has generated the biggest database of publicly reported sightings in the world, allowing MCS to provide key information that has successfully led to their protection under UK and international laws.
Basking Sharks were fished in UK waters for their liver oil until the mid-1990s. However, off the Pacific coast of Canada in the 1960s they were eradicated by harpooning and shooting because fisheries authorities claimed they were becoming entangled in salmon nets and costing the industry millions. They have so far not returned to Canadas west coast waters.
Despite their enormous size basking sharks can grow to 11 metres long and weigh up to 7 tonnes these incredible animals arent dangerous to humans.
They only have tiny teeth, and feed on plankton which they filter with their gills from an astonishing 2,000 cubic metres of water per hour funneled through their huge mouths.
Thats about the same amount of water it takes to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool!
One of the recent sightings from Cornwall was reported by Tom Shelley, when kayaking off Lands End with his girlfriend at the end of May. They found themselves surrounded by large sharks.
Ive been visiting Cornwall for years and have always hoped to see basking sharks. We hadnt been in the water long when suddenly we were surrounded by six huge sharks, feeding nose to tail with their fins breaking the surface.
Their size was awesome, but they really are gentle giants of the sea so we werent afraid, in fact it was a magical experience that we will never forget.
Dr Jean-Luc Solandt says There is an increased public interest in basking sharks, and being close to them is awe inspiring, but people must remember that they are wild animals, and while they may not be aggressive, they can be unpredictable, especially when they are in the mood for breaching.
That is why we have produced the Basking Shark Code of Conduct, along with project partners including the Shark Trust. It advises the public on how to behave safely around basking sharks.
Basking shark encounters can be reported to MCS at www.mcsuk.org, where the Basking Shark Code of Conduct can also be downloaded.