Beasts of the sea making a splash off the coast

Worldwide conservation experts meet to discuss plan to protect the giant fish with UK nature reserves

A A A

Marine nature reserves may be set up around the British coast in an attempt to protect basking sharks.

The world's second biggest fish, which can be more than 30ft long and weigh several tonnes but feed only on plankton, are increasingly admired by wildlife enthusiasts from Cornwall to Scotland. Watching them as they come inshore in the summer is beginning to rival whale watching in popularity.

However, they are threatened by boat collisions, entanglement in fishing nets and in some parts of the world are hunted for their fins (to be used in shark fin soup). Formal proposals for UK protection zones for them are likely to come out of the first-ever international conference on basking shark conservation, which begins on the Isle of Man on Sunday.

The conference, which has drawn experts from all over the world, has followed on from the discovery two years ago that basking sharks are a truly global species.

This was proved when a shark tagged with a satellite transmitter off the Isle of Man coast in 2007 was shown to have crossed the Atlantic, being recorded three months later off the coast of Newfoundland. Further research has shown that basking sharks from the east coast of North America migrate down to South American waters in winter.

The conference has drawn experts from the US and Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and the Seychelles as well as from European countries from France to Norway. It is being organised by the Manx Government in conjunction with two wildlife charities, the Manx Wildlife Trust's Basking Shark Watch and the Save Our Seas Foundation.

The Isle of Man is a well-known basking shark "hotspot" with many sightings in the Irish Sea and in Manx coastal waters every year, and the species is fully protected under the island's laws.

Proposals for its formal protection in British marine nature reserves are likely to come from the meeting of the working group of Britain's basking shark Biodiversity Action Plan, which will be held on the final day of the conference next Thursday.

Dr Lissa Goodwin, marine policy officer for the Wildlife Trusts and a BAP group member, said the meeting would seek to identify conservation zones for the species. These might be included in the marine nature reserves which will be set up around the coasts of Britain under the Marine Bill currently going before parliament, likely to become a Marine Act later this year.

"There are definite threats to the basking shark in Britain, such as boat collisions and entanglement in nets, but we don't know what the level of threat is to the population as a whole, so we need to err on the side of caution," she said.

"We need to identify the areas that are important to them for breeding and feeding. The scale of development of the marine environment is such that we need to identify areas that are special to every species, and ensure that those sites which are special are given the protection they deserve."

Basking shark fins are still "incredible valuable" in the Far East, she said. There was once a basking shark fishery in Britain and Ireland but now the species is protected.

"The conference has stemmed from the realisation that basking sharks are a global species and we need to work together as partners around the world, to focus our conservation effort more closely," said Fiona Gell, wildlife and conservation officer in the Manx Government's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Service Desk Analyst - (Active Directory, Support, London)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst - (Active Di...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition