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Surfers In Close Encounter With Big School Of Basking Sharks Off Clare

6th May 2020
One of the basking sharks filmed by surfers off Co Clare at the weekend One of the basking sharks filmed by surfers off Co Clare at the weekend Photo: Tom Gillespie/Instagram

A surfing quartet got up close with a school of basking sharks off Co Clare at the weekend, as the Irish Examiner reports.

The surfers had brought a GoPro camera to video their wave-riding exploits, which came in handy to capture their encounter with as many as 20 of the giant marine wildlife on Saturday afternoon (2 May).

“They were quite slow and peaceful, and they just came towards us and cruised past,” says Tom Gillespie, one of the four and who recorded the footage.

“We just tried to make sure we didn’t look like plankton.”

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) suggests that sightings of basking sharks in recent weeks indicate there could be “hundreds of animals” in a hotspot between Clare and the Aran Islands.

But while such large groupings are unusual, they are not unprecedented, according to the IWDG’s sightings officer Pádraig Whooley.

“As we are still less than mid-way through the shark season, it’s a little premature to be calling this a record year for sharks,” he said. “Better to wait till the end of the season when we can review all the sightings data and reflect on how good a season this has been the planet’s second biggest fish.”

Despite their fearsome size, basking sharks feed only on plankton and pose no threat to humans.

But that should not serve as any encouragement to take a dip while as social distancing measures remain in place.

Published in Marine Wildlife, Surfing
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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