Inishowen's Basking Shark
The tropical waters of the Cape Verde Islands off the West African coast had a recent guest who had travelled all the way from Malin Head, the most northerly point in Donegal! ‘Banba’ a five meter long female shark has been located in the Cape Verde Islands by a satellite transmitter with which it was tagged last July at Malin, along with four other basking sharks. This 5000km journey from Malin Head to the West Coast of Africa has raised many questions on the fundamental theories marine biologists have held regarding the lifecycle of this magnificent species. Questions are now being asked questioning the long held view that basking sharks inhabited temperate waters only. Basking sharks were once hunted off the coasts of Ireland but are now classed as endangered in the North Atlantic. The Irish Basking Shark Study Group have been pioneering research on these marine visitors, motivated by a desire to see this rare species protected in Irish waters. One of the co founders of the group, Emmet Johnston, said: “The group are delighted with the finding” adding, “it is a highly unusual place to find a species that is presumed to inhabit temperate waters”.
Tracking these five basking sharks is part of the Monster Munch Project , which was set up to bridge the gap between Marine scientists undertaking research and the local communities in which the work is undertaken. The Inishowen Development Partnership, Queen’s University, Belfast, and the Irish Basking Shark study-group, funded the initiative, which delivered a primary school based awareness programme on the Inishowen peninsula in Co Donegal and to assist in its conservation. The long journey of ‘Banba’, who was originally tagged and named by pupils as Scoil Naomh Mhuire, now proves that the waters off Malin Head is a summer hot spot for the basking shark. For more information to see a magnificent video of the shark log on to: www.baskingshark.ie