Monday, 28 July 2008

We Love Basking Sharks

Daa da, daa da, da da, da da, da da.... Yes, it is in fact a textual rendition of the infamous shark tune brought to us courtesy of “Jaws” and our semi-subconscious fear of the great creature. This fear is of course not totally irrational, sharks are notoriously well-designed killing machines who have evolved over time to become one of the most ruthless apex predators of the seas. That being said, shark attacks on humans are rare, in 2003 the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) reported “only” 55 confirmed cases of unprovoked shark attacks in the whole world. Whilst this is no consolation to those affected, it is nonetheless a rare occurrence.

These formidable creatures are unfortunately suffering due to a number of man-made factors: over fishing of their natural prey, pollution and the horrific but still widespread practice of “finning”.

There are various projects active all over the world to help preserve sharks, one to make the news recently is the “Seaquest Basking Shark project” dedicated, as the name suggests, to the Basking Shark, the world’s second largest fish. The project is being run by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust (CWT) and SeaWatch, and shark spotting points will be set up at Gwennap Head and at Carn Gloose near Cape Cornwall in the UK.

If you live in the area then you should help. The CWT is appealing for volunteers to come forward who can log shark sightings. Last year, SeaWatch surveys recorded 656 basking sharks from Gwennap Head and six species of whale, dolphin and porpoise.

If you are worried about a “Jaws” situation then take a deep breath and relax, the basking shark is totally harmless to humans; they eat only plankton! Despite their particular diet, they can grow to 39ft in length and weigh up to 7 tonnes, making them the UK’s biggest wild visitor.

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