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Basking Shark Sightings
The Basking Shark is a seasonal visitor to British waters, arriving in significant numbers between May and October each year. Reaching lengths of up to 12m, on a still day the large dorsal and caudal (tail) fins of the Basking Shark can be easily spotted, as the shark slowly cruises through coastal waters.
Some marine areas attract more sharks than others and are known as Basking Shark 'hotspots'. These are shown on the map to the right:
- Hebrides (Skye)
- Hebrides (Mull)
- Isle of Man
- Malin Head
- Southwest England (Devon, Cornwall, Scilly).
During the early spring and summer months, warmer water moves from the Atlantic into the coastal waters of the western UK and Ireland, encouraging greater marine productivity, particularly in the hotspots.
The map below shows the latest Basking Shark sightings submitted to our database:
As the warmer water meets the cooler inshore water, the deep nutrient-rich layers of the water column are lifted to the surface in a process known as upwelling. Upwelling is the catalyst for an explosion, or bloom, in the growth of phytoplankton – microscopic marine plants which form the base of the marine food-web. This in turn feeds a huge increase in zooplankton, the tiny animals which prey on phytoplankton – and the preferred ‘prey’ of Basking Sharks. This greater 'productivity' is especially focussed in and around tidal fronts, caused by differences in water temperature, strong tidal flow and variations in seabed depth. Tidal fronts are often prominent around headlands.
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