Large numbers of basking sharks still feeding in Cornish waters Published: 18 August, 2006
High numbers of basking sharks have been recorded Photo courtesy of Porthkerris Divers – www.porthkerris.com
TODAY a marine wildlife aerial survey team have again reported high numbers of basking sharks in Cornwalls coastal waters. During a routine aerial survey for marine wildlife off the southwestern tip of Cornwall this morning, researchers from the University of Exeters School of Biosciences, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Cornwall Wildlife Trust counted 18 basking sharks.
They were concentrated on the north coast and spotted during the two-hour aerial survey. Similar surveys in June and July also reported high numbers of sharks.
It was a pleasure to see these spectacular creatures still feeding around our coastline. said Dr Ruth Leeney, researcher at the University of Exeter Cornwall Campus. Basking sharks were reported in large numbers close to shore all around the Cornish coast in July, and while there have been fewer shore-based sightings this month, it appears that the sharks are continuing to take advantage of the summer plankton blooms around Cornwall.”
These sightings indicate that Cornish waters are still an important hotspot for this protected species throughout the summer. Basking sharks have become a significant attraction to the growing number of marine wildlife watching trips around Cornwall and are certainly adding to the economy of the county, added Dr. Annette Broderick, who co-ordinates the Marine Vertebrate Research at the University of Exeter Cornwall Campus
The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is the second largest fish in the sea, and is a regular visitor to British coasts, especially during the summer. These giant, plankton-feeding sharks can grow in excess of 11m and weigh up to seven tonnes. Little is known of the movements of basking sharks around UK coasts, or where they spend the rest of the year.
Through Basking Shark Watch, MCS has been gathering public sightings of basking sharks from around the UK since 1987 and we are only just beginning to understand long-term trends in the distribution of this species, said Peter Richardson, MCS Species Policy Officer. But these surveys represent the first attempt at consistent aerial monitoring of sharks and other large, protected marine species in Cornwalls waters, and they will greatly increase our knowledge of these species.
The monthly surveys are coordinated by staff from the University of Exeters Cornwall Campus and MCS, and are funded by the European Social Fund with additional support from MCS. They began in January this year and aim to monitor the different species of marine wildlife visiting Cornwalls waters. Thursdays survey also detected several sunfish, a species that was also reported by the same team in large numbers during Julys survey. Previous months surveys have recorded bottlenose and common dolphins, harbour porpoises and grey seals. As well as understanding the distribution and seasonality of the different species of wildlife using Cornwalls waters, the team also hope to inform the growing marine wildlife watching tourism industry that is fast becoming a local tourism attraction.
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