In the UK for the Olympics? Head over to the coasts of South West England, Western Scotland or the Isle of Man to see some basking sharks.
Those areas have recently been identified as basking shark hotspots in a comprehensive analysis by the University of Exeter, the Marine Conservation Society, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Wave Action. The results, published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, show the number of basking shark sightings have increased over the last few decades. The potential population increases comes decades after protection from commercial hunting in the late 20th century.
Previously, the northeast Atlantic hosted a large commercial fishery for basking sharks, killing 81,000 between 1952 and 2004. They were hunted primarily in Norway, Ireland and Scotland, for their liver oil. Large-scale hunting ended in the UK in the mid twentieth century, but continued in moderate levels in Norway until 2000. They have been protected under UK legislation since 1998.
The research team focused on understanding the pattern of summer basking shark sightings in UK waters. By analyzing 11,781 records of public sightings over the last 20 years, and combining it with records from boat-based shark surveys, the research team was able to complete the largest study of its kind.
They found a rise in the number of sightings from the 1980s to the 2000s. Their results also suggest an overall increase in size, indicating a higher number of older sharks. This could prove that basking sharks are recovering from previous exploitation, showing that long-term protection could be paying of.
You can read the full story here: Public sightings suggest increase in basking sharks in British waters.
Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC.