A group of researchers off the coast of west Cork are tagging basking sharks in a bid to learn more about the gentle giants swimming in Ireland’s shorelines.
Researchers from Trinity College Dublin’s School of Natural Sciences tagged the sharks which grow to 12 m in length, making them the second largest shark species in the world.
On the final day of their fieldwork last week, the two researchers observed up close one of the tagged female sharks by snorkelling along side it.
The large shark can be seen swimming calmly in front of the researcher.
Last week, Assistant professor Nick Payne and PhD candidate Haley Dolton tagged four sharks with electric tags to gather data about the shark’s behaviour and physiology.
The researchers aim to learn more about basking sharks anatomy and physiology which will help conservation efforts for the endangered species.
A dissection was carried out on two dead basking sharks which washed up on the coastline near Clonakilty. The sharks washed up within days of each other, and the dissection allowed for a detailed examination of the internal anatomy of basking sharks.
The dissection helped the team to learn how sharks cope with environmental variation such as changes in water temperature.
Dr Payne said: “Basking sharks are a difficult species to study because they are not very abundant and they only grace our shores for a brief period each year, from April to August, so I am delighted we were able to learn so much about them this past week.
“We would rather not have had the opportunity to examine the two sharks that died prematurely before we took to the sea, but these sad events did at least help us learn more about them.”
He added, “Basking sharks are an endangered species and at risk of death from fishing bycatch and from getting struck by boats, so the more we know about them – especially their behaviour and physiology – the better chance we have of protecting them.
Meanwhile, more Irish people believe more action needs to be taken to improves the ocean’s health, according to Ireland’s First Ocean Citizen Survey.
92 pc of people said more action should be taken to improve the health of the ocean, and 85 pc agreed that human action is damaging the ocean.
The survey showed that 67 pc of people think economic growth and job generation can be supported by the ocean, seas and inland waters, and 67 pc agree that the health of the ocean and their own health are connected.
The survey also revealed that most people think ‘pollution at the coast or in the sea’ is the most concerning environmental issue.
The survey consisted of 1000 people in Ireland and recorded opinions on current marine issues and priorities for protection of the marine environment.
The online survey was developed by the Marine Institute and the European Commission to encourage the people of Ireland to contribute to the EU Mission for Healthy Oceans, Seas, Coastal and Inland Waters.