Why we study basking sharks

Basking Sharks are VERY RARE: Scientists find out scientific facts about them so that governments have the scientific information to make informed marine management plans.

When MBSW was started in 2004, little was known about the basking sharks seen in Manx waters or how they mixed with other basking shark populations. After 15 years more research we know a LOT more. MBSW and other scientific teams have done a lot more satellite tagging, genetic analysis and behavioural observations. Drones are the latest technology being used to study sharks.

Why are Basking Sharks Rare?

Hundreds of thousands of basking sharks were killed for their liver oil and their fins are still used for shark fin soup. Basking sharks from the small remnant population that is left are accidentally caught in fishing nets and injured by being hit by boats at the surface.


Why do we need to study Basking Sharks?

Marine Conservation planners need to know as much about basking sharks as possible in order to make sensible, informed wildlife planning conservation decisions.

What questions are we asking?

Q1. How many basking sharks are there in the whole world and how many of them frequent British waters?

Q2. Where do basking sharks go when they leave British surface waters?

Q3. Are there different schools of basking sharks around the world or are they all global travellers?

To find the answers

How do we find out scientific facts about basking sharks when they are only seen at the sea surface for a few weeks a year? Scientists study the DNA of basking sharks from around the world and compare this information with what scientists have found out by satellite tagging them. It is hard to study basking sharks because they are only seen at the sea surface for a few weeks a year.

Manx Basking Shark Watch is collaborating with scientists from top universities in order to produce the most valuable scientific information possible.

1. Our basking shark skin slime samples go to Dr Les Noble’s department at Aberdeen University for genetic analysis. See http://www.abdn.ac.uk/ibes/profiles/l.r.noble/?publications&page=6 and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-isle-of-man-20049232

2. Our MK10 PAT satellite tagging work is done in collaboration with APECS see http://www.asso-apecs.org.

3. Our SPOT satellite tag work is analysed in collaboration with Dr Matt Witt at Exeter University see https://www.exeter.ac.uk/esi/people/witt/ and https://vimeo.com/112944138