IT must be something in the water.
Scottish National Heritage has reported its first sightings of basking sharks off the west coast of Scotland leaping several feet out of the water.
But according to Eleanor Stone, marine officer at the Manx Wildlife Trust, basking sharks have been seen broaching for several years now off the Isle of Man.
She said: ‘Basking sharks do leap fully out of the water here too and it is a spectacular sight.
‘It has been thought that it might be related to courtship behaviour, but no one knows for definite why they do this.’
This year has seen a low number of basking shark sightings reported to the Manx Basking Shark Watch, a Manx Wildlife Trust project.
Only 125 sharks were reported. It compares with 287 in 2011, the all-time high of 835 in 2009, and the average from 2005 to 2011 of 489.
Miss Stone said: ‘The beginning and end of the season, in late May and early August, were both quite good for sightings, but the incredibly unsettled weather is probably the cause of the lack of sightings in between.
‘The sharks were most likely here all summer, as usual, but the lack of calm periods meant the water was continually mixed and the sharks would not have been at the surface where we can spot them.
‘Nevertheless, the Manx Basking Shark Watch project managed to deploy three satellite tags and collect about 38 more genetic samples in the limited time available.’
In fact, the season started early this year with a major sighting at the end of April.
Three or four sharks were seen by a trawlerman half a mile from shore in Castletown Bay on April 24.
Divers also reported thick plankton – which is what the basking sharks eat – meaning that they too would be present.
Manx Basking Shark Watch runs a tagging project, enabling them to be tracked.
The project, which aims to gather data on basking sharks’ movements has so far uncovered important and previously unknown behavioural patterns that have helped shed new light onto the lives of the world’s second largest fish species.
When the data collected was studied it was found that of 18 basking sharks that were tagged, 17 of them stayed within Manx waters and the Irish and Celtic seas year round, indicating the presence of a local ‘shoal’.
But the 18th shark, an eight-metre long mature female, swam all the way across the Atlantic to the coast of Canada.
Researchers believe this suggests that sexually mature basking sharks are potentially global travellers.
For information about the Manx Basking Shark Watch visit www.manxbaskingsharkwatch.com
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Weather for Isle of Man
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 10 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: South