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Social Democrats Call for Protection Plan for Basking Shark

3rd October 2022
Two basking sharks pass Malin Head on their annual migration - following legislation to protect the species, the Social Democrats has also called for a protection plan for the fish
Two basking sharks pass Malin Head on their annual migration - following legislation to protect the species, the Social Democrats has also called for a protection plan for the fish

Legislation to protect the basking shark in Irish waters has been welcomed by the Social Democrats but the party has called for a protection plan for the fish.

As reported by Afloat, the protective measures for basking sharks under the Wildlife Act were signed into law by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan.

Social Democrats climate spokesperson Jennifer Whitmore had introduced her own legislation to protect Ireland’s basking sharks last year.

“For too long, Ireland has lagged behind other countries when it comes to protecting these beautiful creatures,” she said.

“I am delighted my first Dáil Bill has laid the basis for legal protections for the basking shark,” Whitmore, a former marine biologist, said.

“. However, it has taken the guts of two years for the government to make it this far, an incredibly slow turnaround time when it comes to biodiversity governance,” she said.

“Not only do we need to enhance biodiversity, we need to protect what we have - and treasure out natural heritage, our biodiversity and our own iconic species,” she said.

“Ireland has been an international outlier for some time in not protecting basking sharks. It is therefore vital that this statutory instrument addresses the huge gap in protections that Ireland affords these magnificent creatures,” she said.

“While I welcome steps to put this species on the red list, it is essential these new protections are implemented with sufficient resources to ensure the population of basking sharks is not only protected but afforded the potential of increasing in numbers and thriving in Irish waters,” Whitmore added.

“As it stands, they continue to be under threat from boat strikes, harassment by recreational boat users and habitat alteration through the development of large-scale infrastructure,” she said.

“I would urge the Minister for Heritage to proceed, as a matter of urgency, to develop a protection plan with the necessary resources to proactively protect and enhance basking shark populations off our coast,” she said.

The two ministers said a code of conduct for the wildlife watching industry is currently being prepared by the National Parks and Wildlife Service to “guide responsible and safe interaction with the basking shark in Irish waters”.

This code “will ensure that there is strong awareness of and accordance with best practice for operators and the public in observing or encountering marine wildlife such as basking sharks and marine mammals”, they said.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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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!