Scientists to extend Argyll basking shark tracking for second year

Scientists are to extend the popular west coast basking shark tracking project for another year.

For the last seven months the public have been able to follow the progress of eight of the giant sharks online, after they were tagged in Argyll waters, off the Isles of Tiree and Coll in July last year.

Two of the sharks have travelled much further than expected, with one reaching the west coast of Portugal and the other the Canary Islands, just off Africa, a distance of more than 3,000 km.

The project was started by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the University of Exeter (UoE) to find out more about the life cycle of basking sharks that gather in large numbers around the islands of Coll, Tiree and Canna every summer.

Another 29 sharks will be tagged in the summer of 2013,using a range of tracking devices, to gather more information on how the sharks use the area and where they go in winter.

The work is part of a wider programme of marine research led by SNH and Marine Scotland, to help Government and others plan for the sustainable management of the sea.

Results from the tagging project will help the Scottish Government decide whether a Marine Protected Area should be put in place to safeguard the sharks and balance environmental interests with industry and recreation.

Dr Suzanne Henderson from SNH, who is managing the project, says: ‘We’re getting some fascinating insights into the behaviour of the sharks from the tagging work carried out last year – it was a surprise to see one swim as far south as Africa.

‘Another year of tagging will build on the work we’ve already done, increasing our confidence in the results and giving us more information on which to base decisions.’

Dr Matthew Witt from the University of Exeter says: ‘Sharks play an important role in maintaining healthy marine ecosystems, hence their conservation is important.

‘In addition to the eight sharks tagged with real-time satellite transmitters last year, a further 12 sharks were tagged with technology that stores data on the tag for transmission at a later date. We’re looking forward to analysing the data from these over the next few months, once all the tags have detached from their sharks.’

If you find a detached basking shark tag…

SNH and UoE are appealing to anyone who finds a tag around the shores of the UK to get in touch.

The tags are grey-black, torpedo shaped, 15 to 18 cm in length with a small antenna and may still have a wire tether attached. If found please pick it up and:

  • contact the SNH office in Oban on 0300 244 9360
  • or email baskingsharks@snh.gov.uk

There is a reward available for each tag returned.

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