Campaign to Enshrine Protections for Basking Sharks Into Irish Law

basking snorkeller

Basking sharks are often encountered around the Irish coast (Photo: Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock)

A campaign has been launched to ensure basking sharks are protected under Irish law. Basking sharks are the second-largest species of fish in the world and regularly sighted in Irish waters during the summer months. It is estimated that up to 20 per cent of the world's basking shark population visits Ireland's coastal waters each year. 

A bill has been passed to the Irish Dáil (parliament) to amend Ireland's Wildlife Act to include the basking shark, which will give it the same protected status as whales and dolphins. A petition has been started to gather public support for the bill.

Basking sharks are an endangered species, having been hunted in their thousands during the early part of the 20th century. As many as 100,000 mature individuals taken between 1946 and 1997 in the northeast Atlantic Ocean alone. The world's last legal fishery, based in Norway, only closed as recently as 2006. As basking shark females do not reach sexual maturity until 18 years of age, with pups taking up to three years to gestate, populations have been slow to recover, and remain in decline.

basking shark big nose

The basking shark's scientific name – Cetorhinus maximus – quite literally means 'big-nosed giant' (Photo: Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock)

Basking sharks have been protected by law in UK waters since 1998, and were listed as a protected species by the EU – of which Ireland remains a member – in 2007. However, the protection has yet to be legally enshrined in Irish law. Conservationists believe the protections are long overdue.

'Research has shown that basking sharks are a highly mobile species and that there is huge connectivity between the UK and Ireland,' said Simon Berrow of the Irish Basking Shark Group. 'So it’s wrong that they are protected in one area and not the other. It’s the same sharks moving freely between these areas and we have a duty to do our part.'

'The basking shark is an iconic species and Irish waters are one of the most important areas for this shark throughout the world,' said Berrow. 'We are privileged in Ireland that we can see basking sharks close to shore on a regular and seasonal basis. I think we owe it to them, to give them the legal protection they deserve.'

The petition to support the new legislation can be found at: my.uplift.ie/petitions/provide-legal-protection-for-basking-sharks-in-ireland

 

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