The researchers identified three hotspots for sightings off the coasts of South West England, Western Scotland and the Isle of Man. Each year, the earliest records were of sharks off South West England's coastline in April, with the latest being in Scottish waters in August. This could mean that sharks are moving northwards during the summer, possibly following the arrival of the plankton which they feed on, or may suggest the existence of different groups of sharks in each location.
Professor Brendan Godley of the University of Exeter's Centre for Ecology and Conservation said: "Our research shows that basking sharks could be recovering from the extensive hunting that took place in the 20th century. We are also helping to shed light on their key habitats in British waters: important information as the use of our seas changes and grows. It is notoriously challenging to carry out long-term monitoring of marine wildlife but with the help of many hundreds of volunteers reporting their records, we have made a leap forward. Anyone who has had the experience of seeing a basking shark from our coastline will know what awe-inspiring creatures they are and our research suggests that more of us may be fortunate enough to see them in the future."
Ruth Williams, Marine Conservation Manager for Cornwall Wildlife Trust said: "This research has proved the value of data collected by members of the public and our volunteers, and highlights the importance of public engagement with such recording schemes. It is hugely encouraging to see the positive trend in numbers of basking sharks in our waters. Collaborative working between conservation organisations and academic institutions makes the most of available resources and the results are vital to help us actively conserve and protect these magnificent animals for the future."
Dr Jean Luc Solandt,
|Contact: Sarah Hoyle|
University of Exeter