Tuesday 25 June 2019

25-foot shark swimming 'almost daily' in Achill Island's Keem Bay

The world's second-largest shark has been feeding in Keem Bay, as this dramatic new drone footage reveals

Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

A basking shark measuring up to 25 foot in length is regularly visiting one of the Wild Atlantic Way's most dramatic Discovery Points.

The huge shark has been spotted at Keem Bay on Achill Island, Co Mayo, almost daily for the past month, according to the local tourist office.

Drone footage captured by videographer and Achill Tourism marketing manager Seán Molloy (above) shows the shark swimming and feeding in the bay.

Local fishermen have estimated the visitor at upwards of 20 foot and as many as 25 feet (or seven metres) in length, Molloy says.

Its presence has drawn many visitors hoping to catch a glimpse, he adds.

"When you're on the beach and you can see the mouth, the dorsal fin and the tail, and the distance between them, you know there's a lot of him there."

Growing up to 10m in length, basking shark are the world's second-largest fish after the whale shark. They are plankton feeders deemed non-aggressive and generally harmless to humans, though as with any wild animal, people should not get too close - particularly to the animals' powerful tailfins.

Basking shark are listed by the ICUN as a "vulnerable" species. 

The sharks tend to appear off the Irish coastline between April and August (watch more extraordinary footage from Kerry here), when food supplies are more common.

Irish names for the sharks include liop an dá lapa ("unwieldy beast with two fins") and liamhán gréine or liabán gréine ("great fish of the sun"), according to The Irish Basking Shark Project, a group of research studies based on the island.

Historically, Keem Bay was the site of one of the world's largest basking shark fisheries, which gives these images an added resonance.

Over 9,000 sharks were caught there between 1950 and 1964, Molloy says - fuelling a global over-fishing problem that led to a critical reduction in the species population.

The last shark was caught locally in 1984, and the story of its fishermen was chronicled in an ITV documentary, 'The Shark Hunters of Achill', that same year.

Anecdotally, however, the numbers of basking shark sightings off the west and south coasts appears to have been rising in recent years.

"The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group held a land based whale and dolphin watch recently and recorded four sharks, two minke whales and up to 30 bottle nosed dolphins," Molloy says.

Watch more:

Online Editors

Editors Choice

Also in Life