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Scotland 2012: Basking Shark SPOT Tags

A project of SNH & UoE in conjunction with the partners and sponsors detailed below.

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NameSpeciesLife StageRelease DateLast LocationDays Transmitted
Elgol (Shark 3) Basking Sharkn/a2012-07-132013-06-04326
Solas (Shark 2) Basking Sharkn/a2012-07-132012-08-0220
Cearban (Shark 1) Basking Sharkn/a2012-07-132012-10-1695
Gill (Shark 4) Basking Sharkn/a2012-07-142012-10-22100
Marna (Shark 5) Basking Sharkn/a2012-07-142012-08-0320
Cailleach (Shark 6) Basking Sharkn/a2012-07-142012-11-29138
Roy (Shark 9) Basking Sharkn/a2012-07-172012-12-22158
Fionnlagh (Shark 8) Basking Sharkn/a2012-07-172012-08-0519

Click on an animal's name for maps and more information.


*** PRESS RELEASE: A further 29 tags have been confirmed for basking sharks in summer 2013. Click Here ***

*** Please be sure to also check the SNH basking shark project website for updates ***

The seas around the isles off the west coast of Scotland (Coll, Tiree, Hyskeir and Canna) have been identified as a hotspot for basking sharks Speedie et al., (2009), Witt et al., (2012). Basking sharks appear there every summer and are observed feeding, as well as engaging in social behaviour (which may be courtship) and breaching (leaping out of the water). The area therefore seems to be important for key life cycle stages of basking sharks.

Because of this, the area from Skye to Mull is now being assessed for its potential as a Marine Protected Area (MPA), along with other candidate areas as part of the Scottish MPA Project. However, we need a greater understanding of shark movement, behaviour and habitat use. This will add confidence to the existing evidence and help us to properly assess how useful the Skye to Mull area would be as a MPA and if so, how big the area should be and where the boundaries of the MPA should be.

This project will tag basking sharks in the area around Coll, Tiree, Hyskeir and Canna with satellite transmitters - tags that send messages to satellites, which enables us to follow them live over the internet. The results of the tag deployment on basking sharks will help to answer the following questions:

1. How do basking sharks use the area around Coll, Tiree, Hyskeir and Canna?

2. How long do basking sharks stay there?

3. Are there any areas that are used to a greater extent than others?

4. To what extent is this area essential to key life cycle stages for basking sharks?

Twenty satellite communicating tags will be deployed on basking sharks during July 2012. Eight of these will be SPOT5 tags manufactured by Wildlife Computers, which provide information on the position of the shark each time it comes to the surface. The movements of sharks fitted with these SPOT5 tags will be hosted live on this web page. The remaining tags will be PAT-F transmitters also manufactured by Wildlife Computers, these tags have an onboard GPS receiver that will provide highly accurate estimates of shark locations. The tags have been designed to collect data over a nine month period and then detach from the shark. Once the tag detaches it floats to the surface and transmits the collected data to over passing satellites.

SPOT5 and PAT-F tags are designed to transmit collected data via satellite; however, if they are physically retrieved then the amount and detail of data to be gained is much greater. If you see one of these satellite tags along the coastline then please pick it up and contact us, there is a reward available as the data they contain are valuable to the project. Click here to see a photo of the tags.

If you see a basking shark then please take time to report it to the Marine Conservation Society, your sightings information is important to help increase our understanding of these large enigmatic and important sharks.

For an overview of the distribution of basking sharks in Scottish waters and their relative importance in the UK context, see Basking sharks in the northeast Atlantic: spatio-temporal trends from sightings in UK waters.

To learn more about basking shark biology and conservation issues follow SharkTrust. For a detailed review of basking shark biology and ecology read Sieving a living.

This project is a partnership between Scottish Natural Heritage and the University of Exeter. We would like to thank Colin Speedie & Louise Johnson of Wave Action and Jackie & Graham Hall of the Manx Basking Shark Watch for their support and assistance throughout the project.

Project Sponsors

This project is funded by Scottish Natural Heritage and the University of Exeter.