27 July 2012

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. 

"Great excitement on Friday as Chris watched a 4m Basking Shark feed effortlessly at the surface just off Newquay in the bay. It had the typical hooked snout of a juvenile and the pics show just how bendy cartilage can be! We have been lucky enough to see hundreds of Manx Shearwaters, pods of Common Dolphins and, offshore, Bottlenose Dolphins. But the highlight was a Fin Whale on Saturday about 30 miles offshore. Looking forward to our Blue Shark cage diving expeditions this week :0) and loving the good weather."


24 July 2012

Basking Shark Hotspot - Cornwall

Image © Rory Goodall.
Rory Goodall, from Elemental Tours in Penzancehas kindly written this blog for the Shark Trust, keeping us up to date with all the latest Basking Shark sightings in Cornwall. 
"After previous bumper Basker seasons, 2011 came as quite a shock, with a dearth of sharks like no other year that myself and other local people could remember. Glad to say that this year has made up for it, albeit on a smaller scale than ‘usual’ – of course there’s no such thing as ‘usual’ when it comes to Basking Sharks, every year is different!

This year’s no exception, there have been small groupings – and quite a lot of them – but no large gatherings as there often are in most years.  The first shark in Cornwall was recorded on 8th March (unfortunately beaten to it by Devon this year!) – but numbers have remained steady since then. The sharks now seem to be concentrated in West Cornwall.  Even with the rough weather and the dispersal of plankton, they’re still hanging on in there. The relentless bad weather is due (hopefully) to end this weekend and we’ll have a plethora of sightings around the Land’s End Peninsula, so look out next week and see how well we did!

We’ve had one very successful shark snorkelling trip this year, where all nine clients had awesome underwater encounters with these incredible animals, abiding by the Shark Trust Code of Conduct. There were big plankton slicks being fed on by various jellyfish species – of which there were millions – and the Basking Sharks didn’t seem to mind, sucking them up with a relish, along with the plankton. A number of porpoises and common dolphins were also feeding on the ocean’s bounty


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."

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 end of June began the start of our Blue Shark Cage Diving Expeditions and although all conditions were favorable for a sighting, our days were filled with all other marine wildlife encounters: Common Dolphins, Bottlenose Dolphins, Harbour Porpoise, Seals and numerous Sea Birds but NO Blue Sharks. The water temperature has barely passed 13 degrees Celsius (Blue Sharks preferring temps of between 12 and 20) and the plankton that we would normally be seeing has been slowly maturing with only scatterings at the usual warm front sites we would see. Jellyfish too are thin on the ground; however sightings of Basking Sharks are trickling in with the juveniles coming through firstly at the end of May in ones and a larger group of 8, then a small group of three in June in Newquay Bay. 

In July oily patches of planktonic slick at the sea’s surface attracted a group of three Basking Sharks, two larger and one small one feeding just West of Newquay. In mid-July a mackerel angling  boat reported a 7m Basking Shark one and a half miles North of Newquay over a popular reef, feeding opened-mouthed in sea-state 3…a miracle in itself that he spotted it in the unrelenting chop….well done Colin! The Shark had a nick out of its dorsal fin which could help identify it in the Shark Trust photo-ID photo database.Sadly a mature female Pilot Whale dead Stranded on Mawgan Porth Beach but fascinatingly its tail Stock had been scavenged by what appeared to be Blue Shark. Bites uniform in size and the narrow crescent shape of the Blues were evident from the dorsal fin down to the tail fluke on both flank and underside. Shark expert Ian Fergusson believed it was likely to have occurred far offshore….amazing how nature wastes nothing!  We now wait for further Basking Shark sightings as the warmer weather helps lift the plankton to the surface…."


09 July 2012

Basking Shark Hotspot - Isle of Man

Basking Shark fin © Manx Basking Shark Watch
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. 

"Since our great start in May, Basking Shark sightings for June have slowly decreased to only 13 sharks spotted this month.  This may be down to poor weather conditions pushing the plankton south and unfortunately for us, the sharks have followed.

The MBSW vessel, Happy Jack, has had two encounters with Basking Sharks (including one whilst filming with the BBC’s Countryfile). However, both sharks disappeared before any pictures or DNA samples could be taken. Despite the lack of Basking Shark sightings, MBSW have spotted Minke Whales and had an incredible encounter with approximately 10 Harbour Porpoises surrounding the boat.

The good news is that most of the sightings have occurred towards the end of this month, so hopefully it means the Basking Sharks are returning to Manx waters once again!