Basking sharks giving UK the cold shoulder

Basking sharks, which can grow to the size of a double decker bus, appear to be giving UK seas the cold shoulder probably because the water temperature here is lower than usual at this time of year.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) which runs Basking Shark Watch, the biggest database of publicly reported sightings in the world, says it has received hardly any reports so far this year and it could be down to the chillier waters.

Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, MCS Senior Biodiversity Officer, said: “Plankton, which is the basking sharks favourite food and the reason they come to our waters, are not blooming in the usual quantities so basking sharks are staying in warmer seas to feed.”

MCS says that despite the seemingly slow start to the 2013 basking shark spotting season, we can expect to see a number of these gentle giants visiting seas in the coming months.

Last year over 170 sightings were reported to the charity via its website: www.mcsuk.org/sightings and it is urging people in South Ayrshire to keep their eyes peeled for the sharks as it is important to map their locations and discover more about them.

MCS says there are three clear signs that will tell you it’s a basking shark: A large broad dorsal fin and sweeping tail fin breaking the surface - the distance between them indicates approximately half the size of the shark; Snout often breaking the surface when feeding and if you’re close up, you’ll see the wide circular gaping mouth.