World’s first haven for basking sharks?

Date posted: 31 July 2019

The Marine Conservation Society has joined forces with the Scottish Wildlife Trust to push for the world’s first protected area for basking sharks. The charities have launched a joint campaign urging people to show their support for basking sharks by responding to a Scottish Government consultation.

Basking Shark
© Alexander Mustard

We urge as many people as possible to join our campaign to ensure basking sharks, and other features, have better protection in Scottish waters.

Calum Duncan,
MCS Head of Conservation Scotland
Pupils from Laxdale Primary School, Isle of Lewis during an education trip organised by TUI
© Tara Proud Better World Detectives, TUI UK & Ireland

The Sea of the Hebrides Marine Protected Area (MPA) is one of four MPAs that were proposed by the Scottish Government in June. Spanning an area between the east coast of the Western Isles and the west coasts of Skye, Mull and the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, it would establish an unrivalled protected haven for the largest fish found in Scottish waters.

Large groups of basking sharks gather in the Hebrides from May to October to feed on the plentiful plankton supported by the mixing of nutrient-rich cold waters with warmer surface waters.

Calum Duncan, MCS Head of Conservation Scotland, said: “We know Scotland’s wildlife and environmental quality are of immense value, both in their own right and to our global reputation, and we are delighted that these new sites are being proposed.”

“We urge as many people as possible to join our campaign to ensure basking sharks, and other features, have better protection in Scottish waters.”

Basking sharks are the second largest fish in the world. For much of the 20th Century they were hunted in large numbers for the valuable oil found in their livers. Despite becoming a protected species in Scotland in 1998, they remain under threat.

They face becoming entangled in fishing gear, being accidentally struck by boats and harassment from recreational and wildlife-watching vessels. They can also be accidentally caught by fishermen as bycatch.

Dr Sam Collin, Marine Planning Manager, Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “Basking sharks are only in Scottish seas for around six months of the year but it is vital that we do all we can to protect them from harm. The proposed MPA is a welcome step forward for the conservation of this threatened species and adds to a growing network of protected areas around Scotland.”

Despite becoming a protected species in Scotland in 1998 and considered ‘vulnerable’, they remain under threat.

The new Sea of the Hebrides MPA would be the world’s first protected area for basking sharks, and must offer them, as well as other species such as minke whales, additional protection by controlling potentially harmful activity in the area.

To support the creation of the world’s first protected area for basking sharks in Scotland, and all new proposed MPAs, visit baskingsharkmpa.co.uk by Friday 30 August, 2019.

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