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Basking sharks back in UK

16 April 2007

The basking shark is back in UK waters, according to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). The Society has just received the first three sightings reports for 2007, from Cardigan Bay, West Wales; near Douglas on the Isle of Man; and near Falmouth in Cornwall.

The MCS advises that basking shark numbers will increase dramatically over the next few months, and there is every chance you might spot one from a beach, cliff top, boat or surfboard. It is appealing to everyone to report their sightings of these wonderful and endangered creatures, the largest wild animal to regularly visit the UK.

‘Public sightings records, collected and analysed by MCS, make a vital contribution to our very limited knowledge of the population distribution over time and space, enabling us to provide better management and protection for this magnificent yet vulnerable animal,’ said Angus Bloomfield, Biodiversity Projects Officer at MCS.

‘This data was pivotal to the successful inclusion of basking sharks in the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) in 2005, which has since resulted in European countries banning landing and trade in the species. So please send us your sightings reports – they really do make a difference!’ he added.

The basking shark is the second largest fish in the world (after the whale shark, which occurs only in tropical waters), reaching up to eleven metres in length and weighing up to seven tonnes.

They are easily identified when feeding, swimming slowly with huge mouths agape to filter the plankton which blooms at the sea’s surface during the warmer months. This means they are often seen with their nose, dorsal fin and tail all protruding above the surface. They are also easily identified by their large, somewhat floppy, triangular dorsal fin, and five huge gill slits on each side.

Sightings should be reported online at www.mcsuk.org, by phoning MCS on 01989 566017, or by filling in freepost report cards, available to order from MCS.

Marine turtle and jellyfish sightings should also be reported to MCS.

Posted by: Helen --- http://www.helenmackenzie.co.uk

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16 April 2007  Basking sharks back in UK
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