Massive drop in Basking shark sightings


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A dramatic drop in the number of Basking sharks spotted off the south west coast of Britain this summer is not necessarily a cause for concern according to experts in the species.

Surveys carried out in the region have reported a worrying decrease in sightings this summer. The Cornwall Wildlife Trust has recorded only 17 of the giant sharks off the Penwith coast in June, July and August compared to 634 in 2010 and 1,034 in 2009, while figures from the Sea Watch National Database showed a similarly worrying plunge in sharks seen with only 23 sighted between May and July compared to 392 during the same period in 2010.

However experts believe that this fall in sightings does not mean a fall in actual numbers living in the waters off the UK, and is more likely a side effect of weather conditions.

Despite their common name, Basking sharks are actually happy to feed at a range of depths down to 800m and it's thought that this summer's poor weather has prevented their planktonic food from gathering near the surface. This has led to the sharks foraging at lower levels in search of sustenance and this has simply meant that they have not been visible to observers.

Similar drops in sightings have been noted in the Isle of Man and Hebrides, but sightings around the Irish coast were at normal levels.

As if to prove the continued presence of these oceanic giants as 3m/10' basking shark was spotted feeding happily in calm conditions off the North Norfolk coast.

The North Sea coast of Britain is not typically a popular feeding area for the species with very few reported sightings.

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