News and Events
Graham Ashton was leisure fishing on the 25th July 2014, catching lots of mackerel when he was astonished to see a 10' long thresher shark jump not just once but twice. He reported this to Manx Basking Shark Watch that it was about 500m offshore from Douglas Head a short way along Marine Drive
Graham said "It was not a whale or basking shark, it was quite a large thresher shark, easily 10' in length. it jumped out of the water twice within 200m of our boat, completely clear of the water, no mistaking the long tail of the thresher, never seen one on the Island in my 20+ years of boat fishing, spectacular and unforgettable!!"
Graham and I (Jackie Hall) discussed this at length because young slender basking sharks can look a little like thresher sharks when they breach but Graham had taken the precaution of looking at footage of breaching thresher sharks and he said that he was certain that it was a thresher. Also, thresher sharks eat mackerel and Graham and his companion were catching lots of them so we decided that his identification was correct. To see more information about thresher sharks and an an excellent video of thresher sharks jumping and underwater footage of them swimming see: http://www.arkive.org/thresher-shark/alopias-vulpinus/video-00.html
Mister Tailor, the 5.5m long male basking shark we tagged on the Isle of Man 411 days ago has been heading gradually northwards heading generally towards the Isle of Man. His tag was generously sponsored by Dong Energy.
Mister Tailor was about 50km south of the Island a couple of days ago. Although I am getting signals from him they are not of the very best quality and they are, therefore, not mapping on Wildlife Computers (see http://www.wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?tag_id=129183). I thought that you might want to get a rough idea of where he is and I therefore attach a Google map of his approximate whereabouts over the last couple of months. This relatively poor signal may be due to the tag tether being slightly twisted or it may have become fouled with seaweed or barnacles. With luck it may sort itself out soon, as King Orry's tag seems to have done at last. He is in NW Scotland. See http://www.wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?tag_id=129182.
I am delighted to report that 'King Orry', the male basking shark who's tag is sponsored by the isle of Man's Steam Packet Company, has sent us signals from waters in the Western Isles of Scotland. He is well offshore between islands. We have had no signal from Mister Tailor for a while but Finly's tag is still floating free. We hope that it hits land soon and we can then refurbish it and use it again next year. Follow all the basking sharks tagged in British waters by both Dr Matt Witt's team from the University of Exeter and those tagged by Manx Basking Shark Watch by registering to receive updates by email at http://www.wildlifetracking.org/?species=Basking%20Shark
See where King Orry isat http://www.wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?tag_id=129182
The picture is of 'King Orry's" characteristic dorsal fin.
Everytime you are on a beach take 2 minutes to pick up some of the human litter. I will be joining in with this. This is one of those great ideas that could change the look of our beaches forever. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-28373761
Well, Finly and his tag have provided us with truly remarkable and useful information for the last year and a bit but it appears that the tag popped off on about the 10th July or slightly before. This data has been added to the now vast body of information that we have gained about basking sharks off-season movements. Amazing to think that we know so little about them until a few years ago.
I am sure that we will stand a very good chance of retrieving Finly's tag once it comes ashore and maybe we can refurbish it and use it again! Many, many, thanks to Isle of Man bank for so generously donating this tag to Manx Basking Shark Watch and to the children of Bradden School, especially Keira, for naming him. Keira, I owe you a trip out on the boat. Please get your dad to contact me via this website.
See Finly's journey, or the bits of it that he disclosed to us! athttp://www.wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?tag_id=129185
Keira's winning picture of Finly is shown below.
I am delighted to report that we have, at long last, on the 16th July, had a basking shark sighting from a Mr Keith Podmore of Port Erin--but it was in Douglas Bay! We hadn't had a single sighting since the 29th of June! I am sure that most people who are interested in basking sharks in Manx waters know how vanishingly rare this is but having spoken to Keith he is totally confident that it was a basking shark. He lives in Port Erin, a well known basking shark hot-spot so he knows a shark when he sees one!
We have had previous experience of basking sharks in Douglas Bay and this normally seems to happen when we are not seeing sharks in the normal hot-spots. My best guess is that the basking sharks are not finding their preferred food in the normal hot-spots so they are searching for it elsewhere. We have done several boat surveys recently and have seen no basking sharks at all,
When we were out on Happy Jack yesterday, 17th July, however, we saw 2 pods, one pod of at least 8 animals including 2 juveniles off Peel and one pod of, again, at least 8 individuals including one very small juvenile and another juvenile off Bradda Head. The ones off Bradda Head were in a particularly playful mood. They were very calm swimming around our boat, diving down and then coming up again after a few minutes in a normal pattern for Rissos when, to our delight, they swam past us in formation and then put on a delightful show of multiple jumps. Thinking as a biologist rather than just a delighted spectator they may have been doing this to as a show of strength to show that they were strong enough to protect their infants but I couldn't help but feel that they did it for our delight! I attach one photo. More will be on our Facebook page shortly.
Julian Cleary and Oxford Scientific Films have been filming our beautiful Manx coastline and marine wildlife for a new series on ITV called 'Nature Nuts'. The teams on the Manx Basking Shark Watch research boat 'Happy Jack' and Bob Taylor's boat 'Gemini' worked together to help them find some of our remarkable marine wildlife. The basking sharks didn't cooperate but the weather did and they were able to film Rissos' dolphins, harbour porpoise, a dead Minke whale, grey seals and the lovely breeding bird colony on the Sugarloaf. I believe that the series will be shown late this year. The photo shows, from left, director Charlie Bingham, presenter Julian Cleary, the MBSW crew Rowan Henthorn, Jackie and Graham Hall and cameraman Matt Norman.
I am delighted to report that all three of the basking sharks that still have their SPOT satellite tags on from last summer have been on the surface in the last week and that none of them are far away.
Finly is surface-feeding a lot near Stranraer, King Orry popped up briefly about 90km NNW of the northern Irish Coast and Mister Tailor is still popping up occasionally in the middle of the Irish Sea about 120km SSW of the Isle of Man. Have a look at their individual positions on the Wildlife Tracking website http://www.wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?project_id=864 where you can register to have updates of their latest positions.
The photo shows King Orry's magnificent dorsal fin. His tag was generously donated by The Steam Packet Company.
I am delighted to report that King Orry, the 7m long male basking shark sponsored by The Steam Packet Company, has finally popped up 90km NNW of Malin Head on the North coast of Ireland! We tagged him on August 13th 2013 and we haven't heard from him since October. He is obviously a basking shark who likes to feed deep in the water column and the tag will only tell us where he is when King Orry breaks the water surface. Let's hope he stays up for a few days and gives us some valuable information about where he is feeding.
Finly, meanwhile continues to feed on the surface and is giving us excellent data. See maps for both sharks on http://www.wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?project_id=864
Meanwhile, in Manx waters we are filming with Oxford Scientific Films and we have no basking sharks. However, when we did a plankton trawl yesterday the plankton situation was completely different to last weekend. The sample was hopping with an unbelievable variety of zooplankton. This bodes well for us getting basking sharks over there next few days, assuming that they haven't all pushed off to northern parts in response to the poor zooplankton menu that was on offer in inshore Manx waters last week!
I will post a map of King Orry's location soon.
Finly, the 6.5m long male basking shark that had his
tag sponsored by The Isle Of Man Bank and who was named by the children of
Bradden School, has finally revealed his whereabouts to us after a whole year
of being in deep water and sending no satellite signals to us. When his tag
first signalled to us again on 4th July he was about 40km NW of Peel, so not
that far from where he was last signalling to us.
Wouldn't it be nice to know where he was all that
time? Some of the basking sharks tagged with satellite tags in British waters
over the last 2 years have gone as far afield as Spain, Portugal, the Azores
and the North African Coast. If you register to follow the 3 British projects
that have SPOT-tagged basking sharks at http://www.wildlifetracking.org/?species=Basking%20Shark you
will receive email updates when the basking sharks pop up. One of these
projects is ours and two of them are by Dr Matt Witt's team, who are tagging in
NW Scotland. Unfortunately we do not know where Finly has been for the last
year but we do know where he is now! If it turns out that his tag has popped
off, which is possible, it may be that we can recover his tag and get it
refurbished, to use again, as we have for the tags from Fricassonce and Neve, both
of which are ready to be put back on basking sharks again.
The information from Finly's tag has so far been invaluable in
confirming that the information coming from the Manx Basking Shark Watch public
sighting scheme gives a very accurate picture of where basking sharks forage at
the surface in the Irish Sea. Once the 5 basking sharks we SPOT-tagged last
year left the surface waters off the SW coast of the Isle of Man they did not
come to the surface waters to feed again until they were in other known basking
shark surface-feeding hot-spots in NW Scotland.
The Manx Basking Shark Watch research crew were delighted to have two special visitors from Blackpool SeaLife Centre visiting them for four days.
Mike Bond and Dave Bulmer are both aquarists at the popular Blackpool aquarium. They learnt about the various aspects of the work that Manx Basking Shark Watch does and came out on the MBSW research boat 'Happy Jack'. Unfortunately no basking sharks were seen when they were with us.
The visit was the first in a series planned between MBSW and the Sealife Centre. The Balckpool Aquarium are raising funds to sponsor a satellite tag by making a full-scale basking shark fin as a collection receptacle and by various ingenious activities such as a sponsored row.
You can learn more about Blackpool SeaLife here.
The photo shows them examining a sample of plankton. It contained fascinating specimens that we later examined under a microscope, including a beautiful miniature jellyfish.
People keep asking me why we have so few basking sharks even though it is right in the middle of what is often the best time of year for seeing basking sharks in Manx inshore waters. Keen wildlife watchers are particularly puzzled because the weather and sea conditions look ideal for basking shark spotting, the weather has been hot, the sea calm and, in places, the sea is full of stringy brown plankton and jellyfish.
The answer is simple, when we are doing plankton trawls on Happy Jack, the Manx Basking Shark Watch research boat, we are seeing mainly plant plant plankton with some areas of very small species of zooplankton, neither of which is the basking sharks preferred food.
On the bright side, watchers are seeing Minke whales close inshore. On sunday, during the queen festival 100s of people were treated to the sight of a minke whale very close inshore off Port St Mary breakwater. At least 3, maybe up to 6 Minke whales were in the bay then and on the following day, June 30th, the crew of Happy Jack and visiting students from Isle of Man College were delighted to see 3 Minke whales between Langness and the Calf. One delighted and alarmed us by breaching clear out of the water about 100-150m from the boat just before 11am. We quickly left the area to continue our basking shark survey along the coast but we understand that another Minke whale breach was seen from Bob Taylor's boat Gemini at about 1pm.
So, Minke whales but few basking sharks. Maybe the nature of the plankton will change soon and we will get a late show of basking sharks in numbers, as we did in 2012.
The photo shows Graham Hall and Rowan Henthorn of Manx Basking Shark Watch looking rather despondently into a very empty plankton net.
The Manx Basking Shark Watch Team completed a full inshore and offshore survey of the normal basking shark hotspots on the 25th June. Having had no shark sightings since the 17th we were keen to see what the sea condions were like and whether the plankton situation was improving. We were rewarded by seeing more life than we had seen so far this season. We had a fleeting sighting or two of a basking shark dorsal fin way off Niarbyl. The shark was obviously feeding deep as we did not see it again despite waiting with the engine switched off for a while. Earlier in our survey we had seen a pod of Rissos Dolphin with a charming young one (see photo below), a Minke Whale, several Harbour Porpoise, several barrel jellyfish and a spectacular number of unusually large Aurelia jellyfish in a very large offshore congregation. The water conditions are looking better for sharks than it has in a while. There were some large plankton species visible to the naked eye in the area where we saw this shark.
In case you don't know, last summer, Manx Basking
Shark Watch put a new kind of satellite tag on 5 basking sharks in Manx waters
last summer. Dr Matt Witt and his Exeter University team put 15 of the same
kind on basking sharks off NW Scotland. Manx Basking Shark Watch is planning to put on up to 7 more this season, sharks permitting!
These tags are called SPOT (spatial position or
temperature) tags. The satellite tag is towed behind the shark and when its
satellite antenna breaks the surface it transmits a location to the satellite
and we can pick this information up.
As those of you who are following last summer's
tagged sharks will know, some of them have produced amazing results. You can
register to follow all these SPOT-tagged basking sharks
So, a little update on the 5 sharks tagged by Manx
Basking Shark Watch.
'Neve' a 5.5m long female who's tag was sponsored
by DONG Energy, fed actively off the Manx coast, giving us invaluable
information about local habitat usage, before heading off towards Ireland, and
dropping her tag. Her tag has been retrieved, refurbished in America, and it
will be used again this season. See a basic map at http://www.wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?tag_id=129181&full=1&lang=
‘King Orry’ a 7m long male basking shark who’s tag
was sponsored by The Steam Packet Company, has been a little more elusive so
far, he has obviously been feeding deep and rarely coming to the surface. When
he has come to the surface his tag has rarely given us enough information to
get an accurate location, most frustrating! However, his tag is still on and
transmitting occasionally so it may yet give us some good information once he
comes to surface feed once more. See http://www.wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?tag_id=129182
‘Mister Tailor’, a 5.5m long male basking shark
who’s tag was sponsored by DONG Energy, has been rather more informative! Like
‘Neve’, he fed actively in Manx waters. He, however, then headed up to NW
Scotland and fed actively there for some time until September. He then went
deep for many months until May 25th when he suddenly popped up off
Wales! His tag is still on and active so keep watching. See http://www.wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?tag_id=129182
“Fricassonce’ a 7m male shark also gave us superb
information about his feeding pattern in Manx waters before heading northwards.
His tag, sponsored by Tower Insurance of Douglas, them came off and has been
found and refurbished ready for being used again this season. See http://www.wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?tag_id=129184
Last but not least is ‘Finly’ a 5.5m long male
basking shark who’s tag is sponsored by the Isle of Man bank. He was named by
the children of Braddan School. The data obtained about his feeding bef=haviour
in Manx waters is excellent, just what is needed to help understand how basking
sharks use Manx waters. His tag is still attached but we haven’t heard from it
for a long while. Fingers crossed that he will pop up and give us more
information before the battery goes flat! See http://www.wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?tag_id=129185
The 15 SPOT tagged basking sharks that were tagged off NW Scotland did
spectacular things. Several went down to Spanish and Portugese waters and some
are now surface feeding off the Western Irish Coast, one is currently off the
south coast of England. See http://www.seaturtle.org/tracking/index.shtml?project_id=839
Some off the basking sharks tagged in NW Scotland in 2012 went even
further afield, ending up near the Azores and off Africa. See http://www.wildlifetracking.org/?species=Basking%20Shark
This research is providing us with a remarkable insight into the
behavior of one of the world’s most elusive and mysterious creatures.
Thank you to everyone who is involved in this work and especially to
those who have so generously sponsored the tagging. Special thanks need to go
to the Manx Lottery Trust who have so generously sponsored innovative work by
Manx Basking Shark Watch.
Rowan Henthorn and Jade McKinley have completed their induction training as part of the Manx Basking Shark Watch research team for 2014. Now all we need are some basking sharks! Although some basking sharks have been sighted the plankton that we are seeing is not what the basking sharks prefer to eat. Let's hope that the zooplankton situation improves soon before the sharks move off to find a better feeding spot! Photo is of Jade (left) and Rowan (right) on Happy Jack.
RTÉ are going to broadcast a new series 'Ireland's Ocean' from Sunday June 22nd at 6.30pm for four weeks. The first programme will be on dolphins and features the work of the IWDG and Celtic Mist.
RTÉ are really getting behind it and momentum seems to be building, a trailer which has been running since last weekend https://vimeo.com/user28957796/videos
Please pass and encourage peole to watch show RTE commission more programmes on whales and dolphins in the future.
RTE PRESS RELEASE
PROGRAMME 1 – DOLPHINS
There are 27,000 common dolphins living in Irish waters and half the European population of bottlenose dolphins, and yet we still have limited knowledge of things like their diets and breeding habits.
In this programme we follow scientists Dr. Joanne O’Brien and Dr. Simon Berrow as they unveil the secrets of dolphin social groups and look at the welfare of dolphins in Irish waters. Simon investigates what may be causing dead dolphins to wash up at an alarming rate on our Atlantic shores.
Dusty is a solitary bottlenose dolphin that has been living off the Clare coast for ten years. In the summer of 2013, she made global headlines when she attacked severalswimmers, causing serious injury. We meet people who have built their lives around developing a relationship with Dusty and hear from Dr. Simon Berrow what exactly might be going on with these interactions and what the consequences may be.
We now know where Mr Tailor is, a couple of days ago he surfaced about 30km south of Bardsey Island, in Cardigan Bay, off the Welsh coat. This is excellent news as we know that his tag is still on and functioning well. It should still have plenty of battery power left so, hopefully, when he comes to the surface more over the next couple of months, we should get some good locations for him. See the map below for his position on the 25th May 2014.
Mr Tailor, a 5.5m long male basking shark we satellite tagged on the 8th of June 2013, has just given us tantalising evidence that he is feeding very near the surface.
We tagged him off Peel on the Isle of Man on with a SPOT tag donated by DONG Energy. See a video of him just after he was tagged here- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Zc4NVtJm3s&feature=youtu.be
He travelled from Manx waters up to NW Scotland. We have had excellent data from him and we know that he fed on the surface off the Isle of Man for some time before sinking beneath the waves and re-appearing off NW Scotland and feeding at the surface there for a long time. We hadn't heard from him since the 1st of September. This means that he has been swimming deep since then. We do not yet have enough data about where he is to get an accurate location of where he is now but we DO know that his tag has just broken the water surface so watch this space!
See http://www.wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?tag_id=129183&full=1&lang= to see more information about Mr Tailor and where he has been.
Excellent! We now have a minimum of 2 basking sharks as one has been spotted off Derbyhaven 2 days running and we have multiple reports of a basking shark in the Niarbyl/ Dalby/ Glen Maye are. SO, we either have 2 sharks total or 2 up at any one time and lots lurking underneath just waiting for some sunnier weather to bring their food, the zooplankton, to the surface where we can watch the sharks feeding on them. Fingers crossed for a great basking shark season! Great photo of the Derbyhaven basking shark from Peter Christian.
I am delighted to report that Jen Adams of The Manx Whale and Dolphin Watch spotted the first basking shark of the year off Niarbyl on 19th May at 11:00. It was 1.5km offshore and they watched it for 40 minutes. May there be many more!
This time last lear we had started the first early flush of basking sharks and, given the warm sunny weather we've had for the last few days I would have expected them to have started popping up to the surface this week. No reports yet but let's all keep looking! They should be here soon.
As you can see if you go to http://www.seaturtle.org/tracking/index.shtml?project_id=839
some more of the basking sharks that have been tagged by Dr Matt Witt and his team have surface way sown south off France, Spain and Portugal. This is presenting a very interesting picture of how these basking sharks that feed in Scottish surface waters in the summer, use European seas in the winter and spring months.
How exciting! Two of the basking sharks tagged by Dr Matt Witt's group off NW Scotland lat summer have just popped up off the French coast, echoing the patterns of the previous years tagging work, where most of the basking sharks stayed local but a couple headed south at this time of year. As the basking shark tagging data set size grows the pattern SEEMS to be getting clearer. See Dr Witt's latest maps at http://www.wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?project_id=839
Scientists have tagged a great white shark that has nearly crossed the Atlantic from Florida, she is heading this way! They have put several tags on her including a SPOT tag like the ones that we use. We do not have to catch the basking sharks to do this, as they do the great whites. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26467037
Excellent and surprising things happen sometimes. In this case the
urgent need to clean up all the plastic rubbish from our beaches has met with
another urgent conservation need, to find out more about our endangered basking
On the 15th July 2009 the Manx Basking Shark Watch research
team put an archival MK10 PAT tag on a beautiful 7m long female basking shark who
was nick-named Ami by her sponsors, Tower Insurance of Douglas. Ami had
recently been engaged in a romantic tryst with a male shark we named Romeo. She
carried her tag until September, staying very close to where she was tagged.
I am delighted to report that a group of primary school children from
a Welsh school, 'Ysgol Crud Y Werin' have just found this tag on Aberdaron
beach in Wales whilst engaged in a beach litter pick organized by ‘Keep Wales
Tidy’. They will receive a reward of £50 for the safe return of the tag. If we
are VERY lucky the tag will be in very good condition we will be able to
download the entire information dataset of where Ami travelled and to what
depths. This will add a considerable amount of valuable scientific data to our
understanding of the way that basking sharks use the Irish Sea and help us to
further protect them.
Many congratulations to the children for finding the tag and a big
thank you for helping to clean our beaches. Basking sharks get their noses
stuck in plastic rings and their fins cut and tangled in fishing line and ropes
so well done to you all on behalf of the basking sharks and all other marine
See the map of where Ami travelled below.
I am delighted to report
that Fricassonce’s satellite tag has been found near Ravenglass by Emma
Jackson. Her mother Gill said “It gave
her a real buzz to find it, the tag was found on our caravan park because we
live next to the Irish Sea and we had a big storm on the 3rd of January 2014
which flooded our caravan park. My husband John was clearing the large piles of
seaweed that had washed onto our site when he found the tag.”
realized that it was something special, saw the address on the tag and
contacted Wildlife Computers in America. They told her that it was a Manx
Basking Shark Watch tag. Emma will receive a £50 reward and we will send the
tag back to America in the hope that it can be refurbished in time for us to
track another basking shark this summer. Emma found the tag on her 22nd
birthday so that will be an extra birthday present for her.
As you may know, basking
sharks are being satellite tagged in Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man.
This information is invaluable as it is helping scientists to piece together
how basking sharks migrate seasonally between several important feeding zones
around Britain. You can follow some of them by registering to do so at http://www.wildlifetracking.org/?species=Basking%20Shark
Fricassonce, a 7m long
basking shark, was tagged off the Isle of Man’s west coast on June 9th
he surface-fed there for several days before moving off. If you look at http://www.wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?tag_id=129184&dyn=1389636431
you will see that we tracked him travelling up to NW Scotland. His tag came off
on November 16th and we have been tracking it, hoping to retrieve it
so we are VERY pleased. Thank you Emma!