Isle Of Man / Ellan Vannin

Manx basking shark project provides 'invaluable data'

Three basking sharks tagged in Manx waters will provide "invaluable data" on the species, according to a leading marine scientist in the Isle of Man.

The sharks were tagged by the Manx Basking Shark Watch (MBSW) last summer as part of a research project exploring their winter movement patterns.

MBSW's Jackie Hall said it had been "incredibly successful" and that the data could prove "invaluable".

Basking sharks are the second largest fish in the world and feed on plankton.

The tags, which cost about £4,000 each, are attached to the shark's dorsal fin and detach themselves after 226 days, during which they stream data to a satellite.

'Wonderful creatures'

Mrs Hall said: "The project is incredibly useful in helping to try and understand these wonderful creatures that appear in our waters in the summer and disappear in the winter."

The MBSW have successfully tagged and tracked 18 basking sharks since 2007.

She continued: "Seventeen remained in Manx waters, the Irish sea and the Celtic sea but one swam all the way across the Atlantic. The data we have indicates that we have a local shoal but that sexually mature animals can travel globally."

Full analysis of the data will take a number of months but the pop-off locations indicate that the three sharks spent winter in the same grounds as previously tagged basking sharks.

Despite the importance of the research, Mrs Hall said "funding issues" meant the future of the project was in danger.

"When we started in 2004, no-one knew the behaviours or the understanding for the behaviours and patterns we are seeing. We as a small group of volunteers have answered a lot of those key questions in the last few years.

"We operate on a shoe-string but we simply can't afford the tags unless people sponsor them."

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