Wanted: Divers’ oceanic & basking shark sightings – Divernet

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In case you missed the memo, April is “Citizen Science Month”, prompting Plymouth-based charity the Shark Trust to step up its push to get more divers involved in sharing data about any sharks and rays they come across.

In fact this reporting can be done any month, and from any part of the world, but for 2024 the Shark Trust is particularly keen to hear about sightings of oceanic whitetip and basking sharks. Sightings can be reported via the Shark Trust’s website or its app, downloadable free from app stores.

Known for their long dorsal and pectoral fins, oceanic whitetips were once the most abundant oceanic-pelagic species of shark on the planet, says the trust.

Oceanic whitetip shark (Shark Trust)
Oceanic whitetip sharks are Critically Endangered (Shark Trust)

However, their inquisitive nature made them easy prey for fisheries, while their low reproductive rate put them at high risk of population depletion, with declines of up to 99% reported in certain sea areas. 

They have been listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2019, as well as on CITES Appendix II and CMS Appendix I, in a bid to slow their decline. They are also the only species prohibited from being caught by all tuna regional fisheries management organisations.

Oceanic whitetips are however still targeted or caught as bycatch in parts of the world, making conservationists anxious to put more effective management measures in place – and that calls for good data.

Images submitted with sightings that include consent for use in conservation messaging bring divers the chance of winning an oceanic whitetip T-shirt and mug. This competition runs well beyond Citizen Science Month – until the end of July’s Shark Month.

The Shark Trust’s oceanic whitetip T-shirt (Shark Trust)
The Shark Trust’s oceanic whitetip T-shirt (Shark Trust)

Basking sharks & egg-cases

The Shark Trust also wants eagle eyes kept out for basking sharks during their summer plankton-eating months (April-October), and asks for reports to be made to its Basking Shark Sightings database. 

Hotspots around the British Isles include south-west England, the Isle of Man, Ireland’s north coast and western Scotland – the latter mostly in the Sea of the Hebrides but also along other parts of the coast and even in sea lochs. 

Watch out for basking sharks this summer (Shark Trust)
Watch out for basking sharks this summer (Shark Trust)

Despite the thousands of sightings already on the database, the Shark Trust says it needs more data to understand “what is going on with population numbers and distribution”. 

For divers and snorkellers as well as non-divers and younger members of the family, the trust also runs the Great Eggcase Hunt each year to help with shark, ray and skate conservation.

While this is associated with foreshores, underwater eggcase reports are also sought, to establish exactly where elasmobranchs are laying their eggs

Also on Divernet: Shark Trust launches 5-project app, Divers asked to sign Big Shark Pledge, Divers snapshot 2,000 sharks & rays, PADI names 12 world-beating shark-dive sites

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