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Protect the basking shark! 12 July 2007

If you are out on the water please remember that basking sharks are protected by law – keep your distance and respect these animals. Please do not drive close to them in boats and do not try to swim close to them or touch them.

The basking shark is a huge animal which can grow to well over 30ft (10m) and is the second biggest fish in the world. It is also one of the Isle of Man’s best known protected species. As the Isle of Man is a hotspot for these amazing creatures the Manx Government and the Island’s population have a special responsibility for protecting basking sharks. June, July and August are the peak months for basking sharks in Manx waters. Whilst it is great that we all have the opportunity to see this remarkable creature, there is also the potential for our enthusiasm for basking sharks to actually threaten this endangered fish.

Under Manx law basking sharks are protected and it is an offence to intentionally kill or injure a basking shark and fines of up to £5000 can be applied. Certain forms of disturbance of basking sharks are also an offence. To help reduce the possibility of people harming basking sharks a Basking Shark Code of Conduct has been drawn up. If people in boats, on jetskis, kayaking, swimming or snorkelling follow these guidelines they can minimise their impact on basking sharks.

Code of Conduct for boat operators:

Keep your speed below 6 knots and avoid sudden speed changes

When closer than 100m (300ft) switch the engine to neutral to avoid injuring sharks

Avoid disturbing close groups of sharks as you may disrupt courtship behaviour

Be extremely cautious in areas where basking sharks have been seen breaching

Jetskis are incompatible with basking sharks and should stay at least 500m away

Remember that for every shark visible on the surface there are likely to be more hidden just below.

Fast craft and basking sharks do not mix and a collision could end in serious injury to both the basking sharks and the people involved. There is evidence of collisions between basking sharks and fast vessels – including photographs of badly injured sharks in Manx waters - so this is a problem and we need the co-operation of all water users to reduce the risk of such incidents.

Manx Basking Shark Watch are doing a great job to raise awareness of basking sharks and promote their conservation through their public sightings scheme and tagging research and DAFF is very pleased to be supporting some of this work through their Wildlife and Conservation Grants Scheme and part-funding of specific projects.

The main message is to respect these creatures and give them plenty of space. Follow the Basking Shark Code of Conduct and report incidents of harassment to DAFF (843109), the police on 631212 or the Crimestoppers line 0800 555 111.

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