Great news for wildlife enthusiasts — sharks are back off the Irish coast.
Basking sharks, the world’s second largest shark species, return to Irish shores every year around the same times as swallows. Early sightings of these less well known but much larger harbingers of spring trickled in at the end of March from West Cork, and with an impressive record of 20 basking sharks feeding close to the cliffs off Loop Head in County Clare earlier this week (Monday 11 April), and records from Slea Head in County Kerry, Irish shark season seems to be in full swing.
Conservationist Andrew Power, who tweeted photographs of the Loop Head sharks feeding close to the cliffs described the encounter as “unforgetable”.
— Andrew Power (@aerpower) April 11, 2016
“They were feeding actively for about three hours. You could see the inside of their huge mouths very clearly under the water as they were feeding,” Mr Power told RTÉ.
These enormous sharks, with their iconic triangular dorsal fin and huge gaping maw, typically arrive in Irish inshore waters in early April, and can be seen right through to late August or early September, with numbers generally peaking in July. Despite their bulk basking sharks are slow-swimming plankton feeders that feed by filtering tiny creatures from the water using specially adapted gills rakers. They pose absolutely no threat to people.
The embedded Facebook post below includes a video shared with the Ireland’s Wildlife page showing just how close to shore the loop head basking sharks came, and how good the views can potentially be without leaving dry land.
Basking sharks are impressive creatures, reaching up to 12m in length and weighing up 7 tonnes. An encounter with a basking shark is one of those iconic wildlife moments that will stay with you for a lifetime, and the opportunity is there to see them right now, just off the Irish coast. If you’d like to try your hand at spotting a basking sharks for yourself we have a handy guide here to will help you get started — or why not join us on our Discover Wildlife Weekend in May, when we’ll be doing our best to find them.
Don’t forget, please submit records of any basking sharks you see to the Irish Basking Shark Project via the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s online sightings form here.