Pirate FM News

Cornish Basking Shark Sightings Drop

basking shark1

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 7:01am 28th May 2013.

Pirate FM has learnt the number of basking sharks seen off Cornwall's coast has plummeted.

The gentle giants can grow to the size of a double decker bus and some have already been spotted off the Roseland and Porthcurno.

But experts say numbers are far lower this year and think that could be because our seas are cooling down.

Dr Jean-Luc Solandt from the Marine Conservation Society says even a few degrees can make a difference: “Divers are telling us that the water temperature is 10 or 11 degrees centigrade. But at this time of the year it should be nearer 13 degrees. This means that the plankton, which is the basking sharks favourite food and the reason they come to our waters, are not blooming in the usual quantities so basking sharks are staying in warmer seas to feed.”

MCS says that despite the seemingly slow start to the 2013 basking shark spotting season, we can expect to see a number of these gentle giants visiting our seas in the coming months.

“Although the basking shark is the world’s second largest fish after the whale shark, if you haven’t seen one before it can be quite tricky to work out if what you’ve just spotted is in fact a basker,” says Dr Solandt.

MCS says there three clear signs that will tell you it’s a basking shark:

  • A large broad dorsal fin and sweeping tail fin breaking the surface - the distance between them indicates approximately half the size of the shark
  • Snout often breaking the surface when feeding..
  • If you’re close up, you’ll see the wide circular gaping mouth clearly visible when feeding.


Dolphins and porpoises tend to show more of their backs when breathing at the surface, and will have a more regular ‘arcing’ pattern of movement as they raise their bodies briefly above the water.

MCS says it’s important that the location of these creatures continues to be mapped to help scientists and conservationists discover more about their lives and ensure they continue to thrive in our waters. Dr Solandt said: “With so many people carrying smart phones these days, it’s easy to go straight to our website, record your sighting and take a picture and upload it directly to our Facebook or Twitter pages all within moments of seeing a basking shark.”

In UK waters there are a number of basking shark hotspots, where sightings are most likely, including the seas around the Isle of Man, off the west coast of Scotland and around Cornwall.

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