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Basking sharks are back in Manx Waters! 20 May 2010

Basking sharks returned to Manx waters at the weekend with the first reported sightings made from land at the Sound and Niarbyl and from boats out to sea along the West coast. The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) are calling for all water users to keep a look out for sharks and to exercise caution in Manx waters.

Basking sharks, the second biggest fish in the world (up to 10m in length), often gather in large groups around the Manx Coast from mid May until September and the Isle of Man is known worldwide as a critical habitat or hotspot for the basking shark. The basking sharks mostly swim and feed along South and West coasts of the Island and high basking shark activity often occurs in Port Erin Bay, Peel Bay, Niarbyl and at the Sound. Please take extra care in these areas to limit disturbance and avoid injury to the sharks. It’s possible that basking sharks in Manx waters may be involved in courtship and other breeding related behaviour so it’s important to give them space.

Basking sharks often swim with their dorsal fins just below the surface and don’t necessarily respond to approaching vessels so it’s the responsibility of boat users to take extra care to avoid injury. If one shark is visible, others may be close. People operating fast vessels including powerboats and jet skis are asked to keep their distance, reduce their speed and keep updated on when and where basking sharks are last seen to limit disturbance and avoid any collisions with the endangered sharks. Vessels should maintain 100m distance from basking sharks. If basking sharks approach your boat that’s fine but don’t approach them!

Reckless or intentional injury and disturbance of basking sharks is an offence in Manx waters and is taken very seriously. Prosecution for basking shark disturbance or injury under the Wildlife Act could result in a fine of up to £5000 and a criminal record. The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture provides code of conduct advice to all marine users.

Sightings can be made to the Manx Basking Shark Watch www.manxbaskingsharkwatch.com website.

John Shimmin Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture commented, “Seeing a Basking Shark from the Manx coast is a great privilege and we all have a special responsibility to protect the magnificent and endangered animals while they are in our waters. Basking sharks and other marine life contribute to attracting visitors to the Isle of Man and marine tourism is growing in importance for the Manx economy. By safeguarding this spectacular animal we are also investing in our own future”

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