Basking shark survey gets under way

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Residents on Arran are being urged to get out shark spotting as the 2017 autumn basking shark survey in the Firth of Clyde gets under way.

Basking Shark Scotland are following on from 2016’s successful expedition where 24 individual basking sharks were identified and catalogued, with the biggest around eight metres long.

Basking sharks are often seen in the waters around Arran at this time of the year. A total of 405 sightings were recorded last year well down from the 735 in 2015, but still a big increase in the two years before that.

This year the survey hopes to re-sight the same individuals from last year. If so, this would prove the same sharks would be returning to the same areas at the same time of year. As such this could highlight areas of the Clyde that could be important feeding grounds for the gentle giants.

Basking sharks are seasonal visitors to the Clyde and are harmless plankton eaters. They can grow to a maximum of 12m long and weight several tonnes. Basking sharks can be spotted all over the Clyde, either close to shoreline or far offshore.

They can be confused with other marine animals such as porpoises and seals, however the easiest way to identify them is by their classic triangular dorsal fin which can be over a metre high.

In calm seas sometimes the nose and tail can also be seen breaking the water surface as they feed.

Oban-based Basking Shark Scotland are appealing for the public to submit sightings either via their website or phone to assist with the survey.
Location, time, size, number of individuals and notable behaviour are an example of best information to record.

Founder Shane Wasik said: ‘This survey is very exciting for us and for the understanding of the sharks behaviour.

‘Being able to re-capture individual sharks would be a first for the Clyde area and highlight some of the amazing marine life that lives there.

‘The sharks can be widespread over large areas so any help the public can give us would be really useful.’