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Fair Seas Responds to Legal Protection for Basking Sharks

5th October 2022
As of October 3rd 2022, basking sharks in Irish waters are legally protected under Section 23 of Ireland’s Wildlife Act
As of October 3rd 2022, basking sharks in Irish waters are legally protected under Section 23 of Ireland’s Wildlife Act Credit: George Karbus

Fair Seas says new regulations giving legal protection to basking sharks mark a huge step forward in conserving the globally threatened species.

As of October 3rd 2022, basking sharks in Irish waters are legally protected under Section 23 of Ireland’s Wildlife Act.

The coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks believes that an ‘ecosystem-based approach’ to conservation is required to give species like the basking shark a genuine chance of recovery.

The Fair Seas report ‘Revitalising Our Seas’ is encouraging the government to implement this approach to their ambition of protecting 30% of Irish waters with a network of Marine Protected Areas by 2030.

Aoife O’Mahony, Fair Seas campaign manager, said, ‘It is such a special moment to see a basking shark up close, it is something people remember for the rest of their lives. However, we must also remember these enormous fish are ‘wildlife’ and need to be treated with respect. The legal protection for these animals announced today is such good news and fundamental to their long-term conservation in Ireland. This is another step in the right direction to conserve and protect our marine habitats and species, the next step of finalising Marine Protected Areas legislation this year will help build on successes like today's announcement.”

Dr Donal Griffin, Fair Seas marine policy officer and Irish Basking Shark Group (IBSG) co-coordinator, said, “Given that basking sharks are classified as ‘endangered’, this is a huge step forward in ensuring Ireland remains a place worth visiting for these animals in the future. Yet we can do even more to make sure basking sharks thrive in Irish waters. Ireland has committed to protecting 30% of its seas by 2030, and along with many other nationally and globally important marine species, the basking shark must be a key consideration in Ireland’s future Marine Protected Area network.”

Basking sharks are the second biggest fish in the sea, with females only reaching sexual maturity once they have grown to between 8 and 10 metres in length.

These fish are most often spotted off Donegal, Mayo, Cork and Kerry coasts. Several records show between 60 and 75 individuals in a single sighting.

Published in Marine Wildlife Team

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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!