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Sharks

Could Ireland Get a Shark Park to Protect Basking Sharks?

posted: 07/01/15
by: Danny Clemens

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Ireland's west coast is home to a stunning population of basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus). Between April and September, spectators can catch a glimpse of up to 60 of the iconic, 25-foot sharks frolicking in the water off of Malin Head.

Basking shark
Rebecca Belleni/thinkstock

The beauty associated with the iconic creatures doesn't represent the shark's dark history, however. During the twentieth century, the basking shark was almost fished to extinction by fisherman looking to sell the shark's fins and liver oil. Some experts estimate that as few as 5,000 basking sharks remain around the world; it is currently classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature -- one designation away from Endangered.

British newspaper The Independent reports that a group of Irish marine biologists affiliated with the Irish Basking Shark Study Group is looking to establish a "shark park" of sorts:


The designated no-fish zone would serve as a sanctuary for the recovering population of basking sharks, which is not currently afforded any special protection from hunting by the Irish national government (although certain protections are enforced through the CITES treaty and EU regulations).

In addition to fulfilling a critical conservation role, the park would serve as a tourist attraction, economically revitalizing coastal towns as tourists pay to observe the fish from a distance.

"They're basically like Ireland's giant panda -- you'd love to coddle them, but they're obviously in a cold, wet environment," Emmett Johnston, of the Irish Basking Shark Study Group, told The Independent.

The proposed shark sanctuary would join similar reserves in Maldives, Honduras, the Bahamas and Tokelau.

Click here to learn more about the basking shark in Sharkopedia

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