Wednesday 22 May 2019

Basking shark found stranded after being caught in illegal salmon drift net

Anne Lucey

DRIFT netting is believed to be responsible for the stranding of a large basking shark found dead on a Kerry beach.

The three-metre long female shark - they grow to up to three times that length - was found on the shoreline at Drom East, Cloghane on the shores of Brandon Bay, wrapped tightly in the netting

The shark's mouth was fully covered in the material - a form of plastic netting used in several types of fishing including tuna and the now banned salmon fishing.

National Salmon Commission member, Jerome Dowling, a member of the Kerry Anglers Federation, said he believed the incident had involved "an active drift net" used for salmon fishing, even though salmon drift netting is now illegal in the southwest .

"We thought we had put it (the salmon drift netting using monofilament) behind us," he said.

Basking sharks are the second biggest fish species in the world (whales are mammals, not fish) and are harmless filter feeders.

Like other large marine species, they are threatened with extinction. According to Mick O'Connell of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, significant numbers of basking sharks are currently off Cork and Kerry and have been in the waters since April.

The largest of the sharks were more than seven metres.

Aidan Barry, chief executive of the South Western Fisheries Board, said under the salmon hardship scheme monofilament nets were being collected from fishermen.

They are still in use in tuna fishing and in bottom species fishing.

There were over 800 drift nets, between 800 and 1,600 yards in length in the salmon industry, and the board is considering calling for an incentive scheme whereby the nets would be handed up in return for payment.

"Part of the reason we are collecting nets under the hardship scheme is to ensure they will not become an environmental problem," Mr Barry said.

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