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Sharks
Basking Shark -  scientists believe section 23 of the Wildlife Act should be amended to protect the endangered species
A flotilla is steaming up the river Liffey today in the next stage of a marine wildlife campaign to secure legal protection for basking sharks in these waters. Over 7,000 people have already voiced support for the Save Our Sharks…
White shark: A white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) swimming at the surface with a biologging package attached to dorsal fin. This package records temperature, swimming speed, depth, body movement and video footage
Marine biologists have long wondered why some species like the white shark and bluefin tuna are warm-blooded when most fish are not. Now newly published research led by a Trinity College Dublin (TCD) scientist has concluded that the ability to…
The scientific community have given their full support to list the basking shark under the Wildlife Act
Ten to twenty per cent of the world's basking sharks are in Irish waters year-round. Because of this an international consortium of leading scientists and conservation organisations has today called on the Irish Government to provide legal protection for them.…
Irish coastal waters are “one of the few places globally” where basking sharks “regularly and predictably occur on the surface close to shore
A group of international scientists is marking world ocean day by calling for legal protection of the basking shark in Irish waters. Ireland has a global responsibility to protect the world’s second-largest shark and fish – known as Liabhán chor…
Aerial image of basking sharks feeding off Kilkee in Co Clare
More than 2,000 people have already signed an online petition in support of legal protection for basking sharks in Irish waters. The appeal was started by Simon Berrow of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group to encourage TDs to support…
Aerial image of basking sharks feeding off Kilkee in Co Clare
A Wicklow TD with a background in fisheries science and environmental law has introduced a bill that would afford stronger protections to basking sharks in Irish waters, as TheJournal.ie reports. The Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2021 tabled by Dáil deputy Jennifer…
TCD researchers prepare to tag a basking shark under the water off the West Cork coast
Researchers from Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences were in West Cork earlier this month to tag some of the many basking sharks that have been frequenting our shores — and learn more about the second largest fish in the world’s…
The first sightings of what are known as 'Liadhán chor gréine' or the 'Great Fish of the Sun' have been reported to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group
Basking sharks should be given legal protection under the Irish Wildlife Act, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's Chief Executive says. They are protected in the UK, including Northern Ireland and around the isle of Man. Protection within 12 nautical…
Remains of a seven-metre female basking shark at Inchydoney in West Cork
The carcass of a second basking shark has washed up on the coast of West Cork just days after the discovery of an unusually fresh specimen 20km away. According to Cork Beo, the second large fish was found at the…
A Whale breaching in Irish waters. Listening stations from Malin Head, Ireland's most northerly point, to the island of Islay in Scotland will record transmissions from a variety of mobile marine species tagged by the project's scientists. The data collected using acoustic telemetry will be used to support the conservation of vulnerable species such as salmon, basking sharks, skate, dolphins, whales and seals.
The Loughs Agency has announced the deployment of Europe's largest fish counter as part of the SeaMonitor project. Listening stations from Malin Head, Ireland's most northerly point, to the island of Islay in Scotland will record transmissions from a variety…
Plastic particles from the shores of Dhigurah island in the Maldives, home to a significant population of whale sharks
Next Tuesday 13 April the Cork Nature Network hosts a free talk in the impact of microplastics on the marine environment, and specifically on the largest fish in the sea. During this talk, Dr Alina Wieczorek will be presenting her…
The shorttail nurse shark - so name due to its small size – grows to approximately 75 centimetres (30 inches) and is found in coral reefs
Marine scientists have found that a critically endangered shark in southern African has been identified in waters over 2,000 km away from its usual habitat. The scientists led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) say that information and images dating…
Fifth and sixth class pupils at St Patrick’s NS in Craanford, Co Wexford show off their shark-related art
Fifth and sixth class pupils at St Patrick’s National School in Craanford, Co Wexford had the opportunity to share their knowledge of sharks with RTÉ’s children’s news programme news2day this afternoon (Wednesday 4 November). The youngsters recently took part in…
Eyes of the whale shark. A. Anterior view of the whale shark, showing the locations of the eye (arrows). Note that whale shark eye is well projected from the orbit. Photo was taken in the sea near Saint Helena Island. B. Close-up view of the left eye of a captive whale shark
Japanese researchers have found that whale sharks have protective “armour” around their eyeballs in the form of tiny teeth. Japan's Okinawa Churashima Research Centre scientists studied the eyes of both living and dead whale sharks, which can grow to 18-metres…
Angel sharks are among the species believed to use the nursery hidden under Tralee Bay
Tralee Bay is a “major nursery” for sharks and rays in Irish waters, says a local marine wildlife expert. And Kevin Flannery insists the important breeding ground for the likes of angel sharks and porbeagle sharks needs protection. Marine biologist…
Basking sharks feeding off Kilkee in Co Clare
How many basking sharks have reclaimed the waters off the South and West Coasts? “We don’t really know” is the honest answer from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group. But after a video of surfers in a close encounter with…

Sharks in Irish waters

Irish waters are home to 71 species of shark, skates and rays, 58 of which have been studied in detail and listed on the Ireland Red List of Cartilaginous fish. Irish sharks range from small Sleeper sharks, Dogfish and Catsharks, to larger species like Frilled, Mackerel and Cow sharks, all the way to the second largest shark in the world, the Basking shark. 

Irish waters provide a refuge for an array of shark species. Tralee Bay, Co. Kerry provides a habitat for several rare and endangered sharks and their relatives, including the migratory tope shark, angel shark and undulate ray. This area is also the last European refuge for the extremely rare white skate. Through a European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) project, Marine Institute scientists have been working with fishermen to assess the distribution, diversity, and monthly relative abundance of skates and rays in Tralee, Brandon and Dingle Bays.

“These areas off the southwest coast of Ireland are important internationally as they hold some of the last remaining refuges for angel shark and white skate,” said Dr Maurice Clarke of the Marine Institute. “This EMFF project has provided data confirming the critically endangered status of some species and provides up-to-date information for the development of fishery measures to eliminate by-catch.” 

Irish waters are also home to the Black Mouthed Catshark, Galeus melastomus, one of Ireland’s smallest shark species which can be found in the deep sea along the continental shelf. In 2018, Irish scientists discovered a very rare shark-nursery 200 nautical miles off the west coast by the Marine Institute’s ROV Holland 1 on a shelf sloping to 750 metres deep. 

There are two ways that sharks are born, either as live young or from egg casings. In the ‘case’ of Black Mouthed Catsharks, the nursery discovered in 2018, was notable by the abundance of egg casings or ‘mermaid’s purses’. Many sharks, rays and skate lay eggs, the cases of which often wash ashore. If you find an egg casing along the seashore, take a photo for Purse Search Ireland, a citizen science project focusing on monitoring the shark, ray and skate species around Ireland.

Another species also found by Irish scientists using the ROV Holland 1 in 2018 was a very rare type of dogfish, the Sail Fin Rough Shark, Oxynotus paradoxus. These sharks are named after their long fins which resemble the trailing sails of a boat, and live in the deep sea in waters up to 750m deep. Like all sharks, skates and rays, they have no bones. Their skeleton is composed of cartilage, much like what our noses and ears are made from! This material is much more flexible and lighter than bone which is perfect for these animals living without the weight of gravity.

Throughout history sharks have been portrayed as the monsters of the sea, a concept that science is continuously debunking. Basking sharks were named in 1765 as Cetorhinus maximus, roughly translated to the ‘big-nosed sea monster’. Basking sharks are filter feeders, often swimming with their mouths agape, they filter plankton from the water.

They are very slow moving and like to bask in the sun in shallow water and are often seen in Irish waters around Spring and early Summer. To help understand the migration of these animals to be better able to understand and conserve these species, the Irish Basking Shark Group have tagged and mapped their travels.

Remarkably, many sharks like the Angel Shark, Squatina squatina have the ability to sense electricity. They do this via small pores in their skin called the ‘Ampullae of Lorenzini’ which are able to detect the tiny electrical impulses of a fish breathing, moving or even its heartbeat from distances of over a kilometre! Angel sharks, often referred to as Monkfish have a distinctively angelic shape, with flattened, large fins appearing like the wings of an angel. They live on the seafloor in the coastal waters of Ireland and much like a cat are nocturnal, primarily active at night.

The intricate complexity of shark adaptations is particularly noticeable in the texture of their skin. Composed of miniscule, perfectly shaped overlapping scales, the skin of shark provides them with protection. Often shark scales have been compared to teeth due to their hard enamel structure. They are strong, but also due to their intricate shape, these scales reduce drag and allow water to glide past them so that the shark can swim more effortlessly and silently. This natural flawless design has been used as inspiration for new neoprene fabric designs to help swimmers glide through the water. Although all sharks have this feature, the Leafscale Gulper Shark, Centrophorus squamosus, found in Ireland are specifically named due to the ornate leaf-shape of their scales.

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