A record number of basking sharks were tagged in the clear Atlantic waters off Donegal last weekend as part of a major new study and television production on the migration of the giant docile sharks.
International scientific experts and an RTE film crew were off the north coast of Inishowen last weekend placing a record number of tags on Basking Sharks, the world’s second largest fish.
Guided by local Wildlife Service Ranger Emmett Johnston, Dr Simon Berrow of Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and Dr Mauvis A. Gore of the Save our Seas Foundation spent three intensive days being filmed tagging the sharks. Crossing the Line Film Production Company who filmed the four series of ‘Wild Trails’ funded the pilot project, which will be the premier feature in a three-part flagship production for RTE about wildlife migrations.
Operating out of Culdaff with Skipper Des Mills on the Gemini II and with the assistance of Lough Swilly Sea Safari, the film crew captured the exciting scenes as the scientists tagged six basking sharks - the most basking sharks ever tagged in Irish waters.
They had planned to place two satellite tracking tags on the Sharks but because of the shyness of the sharks on Thursday and Friday they decided to only use Red visual Identification tags placed on the sharks near their huge dorsal fin.
Crossing the Line productions and Dr Simon Berrow plan to return next May to complete the production and place the satellite tags then. Less than ten Satellite tracking tags have ever been successfully placed on basking sharks and the cutting edge technology uses light and temperature readings to triangulate the position of the shark below the surface. Last year a single shark tagged off the Scottish coast confounded scientists when it travelled across the Atlantic to Newfoundland before releasing its tag. Very little is known about basking shark ecology, as they are the most under studied mega-fauna species on the planet. Researchers had previously believed that they hibernated during winter.
“The truth is we don’t know what they do through out the year or where they go, there is only one record of a pregnant shark in the world and nobody knows where the nursing grounds for young Basking Sharks pups are. Inishtrahull Sound is fast becoming a International hot spot for the Sharks and we want to positively promote the area as a place to conduct marine research,”said local wildlife Ranger Emmett Johnston.
Emmett is asking people to report any sightings of basking sharks or red tags to himself on 087 286 7055 or 074 93 22628 or use the Inishowen wildlife website www.nature.ie.