Irish News

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, Jaws Lydia and friends head our way

LYNN KELLEHER

Published 09/03/2014|02:30

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Lydia the great white shark

A leading marine biologist believes the great white shark swimming towards Ireland could be the beginning of an influx of the predators into our waters.

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A tagged great white shark called Lydia is set to make history as the first of its species to be seen crossing into the north Atlantic.

The satellite-tagged 14 foot shark is causing major excitement in scientific circles as she is now swimming just over 1,000 miles off our shores.

The 140-stone shark has swum more than 30,000km since a tracking device was fitted to her near Florida last year as part of the Ocearch scientific project and is now hovering on the mid-Atlantic ridge.

Leading Irish marine biologist Kevin Flannery believes the great white could be the first of many more of her kind to head towards Irish shores.

He said: "There is no doubt from the current position of the shark, we are seeing a great white heading into European waters for the first time. It is about 1,000 miles away, which is not far in sea terms.

"It could be here in 72 hours if it took a straight line but it probably won't go directly in a straight line. She is an eating and feeding machine hunting for food.

"There are obviously more of these sharks and there have been in the past but because of the tag we are able to see it for the first time ever. It is fantastic to be able to see this."

The director of Dingle Oceanworld believes the worldwide ban on hunting sharks is swelling their numbers and sending them hunting for food in the north Atlantic and towards the coast of Ireland.

He said: "Up to a year or two ago, they were being landed in Spain, Portugal and Africa and all the way up along, so they possibly never made it up to Ireland. This is the first official one which will be recorded in the north Atlantic.

"They are protected worldwide now and there are a greater number of them and more of them which can move further north. Possibly we will see more of them."

Mr Flannery suspects Lydia is following a traditional feeding route, which is also tracked by other great whites.

"She is probably on a specific feeding track. They are creatures of habit. The problem was that down through the years they were targeted and killed but now they are a protected species we possibly will see a lot more of them.

"For science, it is absolutely brilliant to see a great white moving into the north Atlantic. There were sightings before off the coast of Cornwall and Northumberland but they were never confirmed. This will prove for once and for all if people have been correct in their sightings."

In the past, Porbeagle and Mako sharks have been found on Irish waters but the nearest official sighting of a great white was off La Rochelle in France.

He said there was no need for alarm, although the Great White has been known to hunt along the shoreline.

"It is brilliant for nature, brilliant for the environmental and brilliant for eco-tourism. I don't think it is a cause for alarm for people to stay off the beaches.

"They are just another fantastic animal in our waters. I'm over the moon. They would be a huge tourist attraction for people to go out and see if more of them do come close to Ireland."

He said the great white would have plenty of opportunity to feed on their favourite meal of seals off the Kerry coast.

Mr Flannery added: "There are around 1,400 seals off the Blasket Islands, whereas one time there was only 200 of them. That shark would be nature's answer to the fisherman's problem."

Sunday Independent

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