Nav: Home

Planned protection area would help basking sharks

February 27, 2017

A proposed Marine Protected Area (MPA) off Scotland's west coast would help basking sharks, researchers say.

Scientists from the University of Exeter and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) satellite tracked 36 basking sharks in summer months of 2012-2014 and found 86% showed "some degree of residency" in the proposed Sea of the Hebrides MPA.

Sharks also returned year after year, and the scientists believe the area provides conditions for key activities such as foraging and possibly breeding, making it an area important for essential parts of the shark's life cycle for which MPAs can be designated.

Dr Suzanne Henderson, managing the project for SNH, said: "We have known for some time that basking sharks are frequently seen in Scottish waters during the summer, and they are big attraction for visitors to our west coast.

"But this research shows for the first time that some individuals return to the Sea of the Hebrides in consecutive years, emphasising the importance of the area for sharks."

Scottish government ministers are currently considering proposals for an MPA in the Sea of the Hebrides, from Skye to Mull, to protect the basking sharks - which are officially endangered in the north-east Atlantic - and minke whales.

"Understanding the conservation potential of an area is key to the successful creation of MPAs," said lead author Philip Doherty, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

"It is important to gather data to ensure the evidence-base that underpins the design of MPAs is robust. The data from this project, along-with information gathered over many years by boat-based surveys and from public reports helps to demonstrate the importance of this region for this species".

An MPA would give additional protection to habitats that are key for basking sharks and ensure their activities within these areas are not disrupted.

Basking sharks, the world's second-largest fish species, are seen annually in the proposed MPA in the summer, but there had been no detailed study of their movements.

Using data from 36 satellite tags attached to sharks, the Exeter researchers found they spent much of their summer time inside its proposed boundaries.

In winter, some of the sharks stay in UK and Irish waters while others swim south to the waters off France, Spain, Portugal and North Africa.

"The results show us that, with appropriate management, designating this area as an MPA could protect these sharks during the summer months," said senior author Dr Matthew Witt, also of the University of Exeter.

"These sharks migrate over large distances, so using MPAs to protect them throughout their range is problematic; however, we can protect them in locations where they spend extended periods of time."

MPAs are parts of the sea where wildlife and habitats are protected by law, with management on activities such as fishing where they are needed. These management approaches, coupled with voluntary measures, awareness raising and enforcement, are crucial to an MPA being successful.

A network of MPAs already exists in the waters around Scotland.
-end-
The paper, published in the journal Biological Conservation, is entitled: "Testing the boundaries: Seasonal residency and inter-annual site fidelity of basking sharks in a proposed marine protected area."

University of Exeter

Related Sharks Articles:

Diving with the sharks
A new study finds that humans can interact with sharks without long-term behavioral impacts for the ocean's top predators.
Study shows how skates, rays and sharks sense electrical fields
Sharks, rays and skates can hunt for prey hidden in the sandy sea floor by 'listening' for faint traces of bioelectricity -- they can literally sense their prey's heart beating.
Study finds preliminary recovery of coastal sharks in southeast US
Population gains follow enactment of fishing regulations in the early 1990s after decades of declining shark numbers.
Planned protection area would help basking sharks
A proposed Marine Protected Area off Scotland's west coast would help basking sharks, researchers say.
Counting sharks
Researchers recalibrate shark population density using data they gathered during eight years of study on Palmyra atoll.
More Sharks News and Sharks Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans
More than test scores or good grades — what do kids need to prepare them for the future? This hour, guest host Manoush Zomorodi and TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, in and out of the classroom. Guests include educators Olympia Della Flora and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#535 Superior
Apologies for the delay getting this week's episode out! A technical glitch slowed us down, but all is once again well. This week, we look at the often troubling intertwining of science and race: its long history, its ability to persist even during periods of disrepute, and the current forms it takes as it resurfaces, leveraging the internet and nationalism to buoy itself. We speak with Angela Saini, independent journalist and author of the new book "Superior: The Return of Race Science", about where race science went and how it's coming back.