Chilly UK seas
could be keeping basking sharks away
BASKING sharks (Cetorhinus
maximus), which can grow to the size of a double decker bus, appear
to be giving UK seas the cold shoulder probably because the water
temperature here is lower than usual at this time of year.
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) which runs Basking Shark
Watch, the biggest database of publicly reported sightings in the
world, says it has received hardly any reports so far this year and
it could be down to the chillier waters.
Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, MCS Senior Biodiversity Officer, says even a
few degrees can make a difference:- "Divers are telling us
that the water temperature is 10 or 11 degrees centigrade. But at
this time of the year it should be nearer 13 degrees. This means
that the plankton, which is the basking sharks favourite food and
the reason they come to our waters, are not blooming in the usual
quantities so basking sharks are staying in warmer seas to feed."
MCS says that despite the seemingly slow start to the 2013 basking
shark spotting season, we can expect to see a number
of these gentle giants visiting our seas in the coming months.
Last year over 170 sightings were reported to the charity via its
"Although the basking shark is the world's second largest fish after
the whale shark, if you haven't seen one before it can be quite
tricky to work out if what you've just spotted is in fact a basker."
says Dr Solandt.
MCS says there 3 clear signs that will tell you it's a basking
► A large broad dorsal fin and sweeping
tail fin breaking the surface - the distance between them indicates
approximately half the size of the shark.
► Snout often breaking the surface when
► If you're close up, you'll see the wide
circular gaping mouth clearly visible when feeding.
Dolphins and porpoises tend to show more of their backs when
breathing at the surface, and will have a more regular
'arcing' pattern of movement as they raise their bodies
briefly above the water.
MCS says it's important that the location of these creatures
continues to be mapped to help scientists and conservationists
discover more about their lives and ensure they continue to thrive
in our waters. Dr Solandt says:- "With so many people carrying
smart phones these days, it's easy to go straight to our
websites, record your sighting and
take a picture and upload it directly to our Facebook
Twitter, all within moments of
seeing a basking shark."
In UK waters there are a number of basking shark hotspots, where
sightings are most likely, including the seas around the Isle of
Man, off the West Coast of Scotland and around Cornwall.
In collaboration with the Shark Trust, MCS has produced the Basking
Shark Code of Conduct, which provides clear guidance
on how the public can behave safely around basking sharks. You can
find out more at:-
dolphins may be moving North
THE unusual sight of a
large group of bottlenose dolphins near the Isle of Man, may be
further evidence that they are shifting their summer range
northwards, says the marine conservation charity Sea Watch
The Manx Whale & Dolphin Watch not only reported around 10
bottlenose dolphins in the North Eastern part of the Isle of Man on
19 May 2013, but later the same day, a large group of 50 to 60
bottlenose dolphins, including young calves, off the eastern part of
the Island. Both organisations are calling for members of the public
along the North West coast of the UK, including Merseyside,
Lancashire and the Lake District to send in photographs to:-
of bottlenose dolphins off the Isle of Man or off the North West
coast of England and the Galloway coast in the Northeast Irish Sea,
to see whether they can be matched with any known to frequent
Cardigan Bay. The photographs need to show their fins side on which
are used for ID in much the same way as fingerprints in humans!
Another interesting sighting; a group of 20 bottlenose sightings off
Abbey Head, Dumfries and Galloway; was also reported to Sea Watch by
Regional co-ordinator, Mark Pollitt, manager of the Dumfries and
Galloway Environmental Recording Centre on 20 May 2013. Photographs
are again being sought to see whether these dolphins match records
either from Cardigan Bay in Wales or form Scottish populations on
the West and East Coast.
Daphna Feingold, Sea Watch Monitoring officer for the Cardigan Bay
bottlenose dolphin Photo ID Project, says:- "There were also
reports of Risso's dolphins in the Isle of Man area at the same time
and of the two species swimming together. Although this is not
unheard of, it is quite unusual in UK coastal waters. In recent
years we have been noting what may be a shift in the Cardigan Bay
population northwards, and we are concerned that this may be due to
disturbance since recreational boating has increased and has been
shown to have a negative effect on the animals." Sea Watch is
calling for added protection for bottlenose dolphins around the
North coasts of Wales since these are being used extensively by
bottlenose dolphins. Current conservation protection for the species
exists in the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and
Pen Llyn a'r Sarnau SAC, but not further North."
Tom Felce, Manx Whale & Dolphin Watch, says:- "There has
been a clear increase in the number of sightings of bottlenose
dolphins in Manx waters in the last two or three years, with
sighting numbers increasing from around 15 sightings a year, to
around 40 or 50 sightings a year. The majority of these sightings
are in the winter months, between October and March, so a sighting
of such a large group towards the end of May is particularly
Manx fisherman Danny Kermeen, who reported the initial sighting of
ten individuals, has been catching lots of herring in the north of
the island which may be the reason that the bottlenose dolphins are
in the area at this time of year, as herring do not normally reach
the north east of the island until October or November. However,
since herring eat sand eels, it may also be those that are
attracting the bottlenose dolphins
Find out more about Sea Watch and how to take part yourself in
National Whale and Dolphin Watch from 27 July to 4 August 2013,
help protect the UK's whales and dolphins by adopting a Cardigan Bay