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.

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust