A Donegal Basking Shark research team had a whale of a time last Sunday with perfect calm waters and clear blue sky’s off Malin Head.
The Inishowen shark team were out undertaking some preliminary field trials of ‘depth tags’ when they encountered large number of Basking sharks and a number of Minke whales.
The team quickly switched to tagging mode and managed to deploy 18 individual visual tags before the wind picked up and the sea conditions affected the shark’s activity on the surface.
Lead researcher with the team Emmett Johnston said: “This really gets the 2011 season off with a bang and the changeable winds provided the team with excellent opportunities for recording how the shark’s behaviour changed with the weather patterns through out the day”. They estimated that there were approximately 30 Basking sharks and two Minke whales within 500m of Malin Head for about four hours on Sunday.
The team has secured funding from the Inishowen Development Partnership and support from local councillor Micky Grant and TD Charlie McConalogue to investigate the sharks surfacing patterns and assist commercial eco/marine tourism operators to develop the area.
During 2011 the Inishowen project will be undertaken in conjunction with Queens University Belfast and followed by a number of television programmes for RTE and UTV. They intend to deploy a number of different radio-wave and satellite tags on the sharks throughout the summer and are asking everyone who is on or near the coastline to keep their eyes peeled for the specially made tags. The tags are yellow and about two-foot in length, they are designed to pop off the sharks at a pre-determined time and can often wash up on the shore.
If you find a tag or are interested in the project, more information can be found at www.baskingshark.ie