Help the Gentle Giants
As the first basking sharks are spotted off Cornish coast, Cornwall Wildlife Trust is calling for volunteers to help them survey these gentle giants this summer in an effort to collect valuable data about the creatures and the threats they face.
The Seaquest Basking Shark project, supported by the BBC Wildlife Fund, aims to collect this important data on basking sharks. Cornwall Wildlife Trust is joining forces with the SeaWatch SW project which carried out over 1000 hours of watches from Gwennap Head last summer.
A Basking Shark by Colin Speedie
During 2007, SeaWatch SW surveys recorded an astonishing 656 basking sharks from Gwennap Head, West Cornwall. Russell Wynn, SeaWatch SW co-ordinator says: "The results of this survey are starting to help us understand a lot more about basking sharks off Cornwall and identify the areas which are important for them.
This data will be useful in influencing the development of a network of Marine Protected Areas around Cornwall, which the Finding Sanctuary project is currently working towards."
During the Seawatch SW survey last year six species of cetacean (whale, dolphin and porpoise) were also recorded, including a fin whale, the second biggest whale next to the blue whale.
Huge pods of up to 400 common dolphins were encountered and a massive 460 basking sharks were recorded during one day alone!
This survey highlights the importance of Cornish waters for supporting an abundance of marine wildlife.
Basking sharks were recorded almost daily off Gwennap Head during last year’s survey. These gentle giants are regular visitors to the Cornish coast but very little is understood about the status of their population or about their behaviour.
The basking shark is the UK’s biggest wild visitor and the second largest fish in the world. Harmless to humans, eating only plankton sifted from the Ocean, they can grow up to 12 metres in length and weigh up to 7 tonnes.
They remain rare in UK waters and despite being a protected species are consistently under threat from human activities in the marine environment.
Lauren Davis, Seaquest Basking Shark Project volunteer says: "Our seas are so poorly protected compared to the land; hopefully these surveys will provide decision makers with the data necessary to give basking sharks and other marine wildlife the protection that is urgently needed."
Lauren continues: "Seeing a basking shark moving majestically through the calm water is truly a wonderful sight, and one which you will never forget. If you are over 16 and interested in spending some time sitting on the cliffs recording basking sharks and other marine life join Cornwall Wildlife Trust and SeaWatch SW this summer."
Previous experience is useful but not essential as training can be provided. For more information on how to get involved contact Lauren Davis on 07979 736661 or visit:
last updated: 07/05/2008 at 14:52
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