The North Coast is lucky enough to play host to the majestic basking sharks, which can be seen in Northern Irish waters from April to September. This shark gets its name because it is most often seen feeding near the surface of the sea and appears to be ‘basking in the sun’.
Rachel Bain, Biodiversity Officer for Coleraine, Ballymoney and Limavady Borough Councils explained, ‘Basking Sharks are the largest fish found in Northern Ireland waters and the second largest fish found in the sea. They can grow to an impressive 12m long and 7 tonnes in weight. Despite their enormous size the shark feeds on planktonic organisms, such as tiny crustaceans and jelly-fish, by filtering huge quantities of seawater through its gills.’
The Sharks Trust has produced a very useful Basking Shark Code of Conduct poster which recommends that:
Boats do not approach closer than 100 metres and keep their speed below 6 knots;
If you find a shark close to your vessel, switch your engine to neutral, and remaining calm and quiet until the shark passes;
If you are in the water when you spot a basking shark you should keep more than 4m away from the shark and be wary of the tail; and
DO NOT try to touch the basking shark and avoid flash photography as this can scare the shark.
For a copy of the poster and more information on sharks, including basking sharks, go to www.sharktrust.org.
On the 17th August 2011 basking sharks became a fully protected species under amendments to the Wildlife Order. Therefore any form of disturbance of a basking shark is now an offence, punishable with up to 6 months in prison and £5,000 fine. If you see anyone disturbing or harassing a basking shark you should report it immediately to the PSNI.
For further information on basking sharks or local biodiversity, log onto www.biodiversityni.com or contact Rachel Bain, Biodiversity Officer, telephone; (028) 7034 7272 or email; firstname.lastname@example.org