The Basking Shark Doesn’t Want to Eat You.
Over the last couple of weeks I have spoken to several visitors who have been concerned by the increased visibility of dorsal finns out in the bay and surrounding coastline. Yes they are sharks BUT before you go running back up the beach screaming JAWS let me assure you the Basking shark doesn’t want to eat you.
Their feeding technique of swimming slowly just under the surface of the water giving the appearance of ‘basking’ in the sunshine is what gives them their name. A sure sign that we are having a good start to the summer holidays is the increased sighting of Basking Sharks. Believe it or not recorded sightings were up on last season’s overall sightings by June. The Seaquest Basking Shark Project recorded only 19 sightings last year while 28 had been recorded by June and that figure is increasing. They are happiest in the tepid waters around the coastline which is a good sign that our water temperature is up on last year.
To be fair to those unfamiliar with the sight of basking sharks it is pretty threatening see the dark shadow complete with dorsal finn of the second largest shark in the world pass slowly underneath your canoe, boat, kayak and more often than not with an open mouth. Fear not they are not hoping to get a nibble of you they are simply sieving a large mouth full of water for food such as plankton, small fish and fish eggs.
Anything that takes 3.5 years to create offspring is a clear indication that they aren’t compelled to tackle a writhing human for dinner. Instead they take a reasonably easy option when it comes to snacking down, opting for a plankton meal that is only shared by two other shark species, Whale Shark and Megamouth Shark.
If anything we need to feel sorry for these spectacular peaceful creatures that are now listed as an endangered species. In years gone by the sharks were hunted for their meat, oil, insulin and even dorsal finn. Now they are protected by law making the trade in basking shark products illegal. Sadly they still fall victim to boats, jet-skis and fishing nets.
What to do if you spot a Basking shark?
Well firstly DON’T PANIC!
Observe the shark/s quietly and from and distance.
Stay away from the powerful tail.
Never try and touch them.
Never use flash photography.
Boat owners be aware they are around and remember it is you who needs to get out of the way.
Keep you speed down.
Shark Trust – Great source of information on the Basking Shark and some great downloadable conduct guides.
Seaquest Basking Shark Project – More great info and advice on volunteering.
Have you spotted any sharks, dolphins or whales while you have been here? We would love to see your pictures. Come and show us on Facebook – Visit Falmouth.
So next time you see one remember – The Basking Shark Doesn’t Want to Eat You! 🙂