Wednesday, 6 July 2011

It's the Irish in them!

A shark that one of my groups sighted last week has been confirmed by the Irish Basking Shark Project as having been tagged on the 20th of April off the coast of Ireland. This is the first international re-sighting for that project for 2011.
The shark was sighted during difficult conditions. The week had been challenging with unseasonal brisk winds delivering a heavy swell, and a particularly inclement day at the beginning of the week had kept the food sources deep below the surface. Any shark sightings for the following three days had frustrated us buy showing only fleeting glimpses at numerous spots all around the coast of Coll.
Out of necessity, on day four, I sat atop the cairns of coll taking an unusual strategy for us of static coastal observations, with the chance that some of these fleeting glimpses develop into some prolonged feeding. I remember my teenage years spent angling, and know all too well that the number one law governing fish behaviour is sods law.
Only thirty minutes into my observation, this unmistakably large fin appeared on the surface very close to the coast, and continued to feed for a good 30 minutes within a tight pattern about the size of a football pitch.
Frustrating lack of phone signal meant that I could not let the boat know for about half an hour, and by the time they had headed south and turned about again, it was another hour before they got to the feeding area.

When the photographers got to the area, they could see that there was a very localised bloom of plankton, and also large numbers of lions mane jellyfish and also a lot of comb jellies. We have noticed that these two types of jellies seem to be present with feeding sharks and could be predating on the same types of plankton.
Alex Mustard was shooting some underwater shots for the 2020 Vision Project and managed to get a clear shot of the tag that was later confirmed with the Irish Basking Shark Project.

Such information is essential to understanding the lives of sharks and how we can best protect them. National legislation is only effective within that countries waters. Once the sharks leave sovereign waters, usually only a few miles from the coast, they can only be protected by international legislation, which is sparse, when it comes to sharks.