The last of a target of 20 basking sharks was tagged last week by scientists from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the University of Exeter. This is part of a project to find out more about their life cycle.
The results of the project will help inform decisions about marine protected areas and the future management of Scotland’s marine environment. This obviously includes the use and location of marine turbines.
The tags, which allow the public to track the movements of eight of the sharks online, already show that in the last three or four weeks many have stayed around the Inner Hebrides where they were tagged. One has made its way south east to Colonsay and Jura and two have headed west to the open sea beyond the Outer Hebrides.
The tracking website has already proved popular with the public, with 42,000 hits since it went live on 15th July.
Names for the eight sharks have been chosen from over 200 suggestions from the public. They are Elgol, Solas, Cearban, Gill, Marna, Cailleach, Roy and Fionnlagh.
Dr Suzanne Henderson from SNH, who is managing the basking shark tagging project, says: ‘It’s fascinating to see where the sharks have been going since they were tagged. We’re keen to learn more about the behaviour of the sharks during the summer months, when they can be seen at the surface in large numbers around the islands of Coll, Tiree, Canna and Hyskeir. And we’re particularly intrigued to see where they go during the winter.’
If you find a tag
Having done their work, the tags will detach from the sharks after several months and float to the surface. The research team are appealing to anyone who finds a tag around the shores of the UK to get in touch.
Dr Matthew Witt of the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute explains: ‘If the tags are retrieved, then we can gather much more detailed data on the movements of the sharks’.
So if you find one washed up along the coast, please pick it up and contact the SNH office in Oban:
- phone 0300 244 9360
- email email@example.com
There is a reward available for each tag returned as the data they contain is valuable to the project.
Suzanne Henderson say: ‘The information gathered from this research will help us better understand how basking sharks use the seas around Scotland and help us advise Scottish Ministers on whether this is an appropriate location for a marine protected area. It will also help Government and others plan for the future use of our seas, balancing environmental concerns with industry and recreation.;
To track the basking sharks online go to this SNH webpage.
Note: The photograph of a basking shark above is by Chris Gotschalk and is in the public domain.