Possible Basking Shark Courtship Behavior Videoed: by Ian Judd

I was fortunate to be witness, between 18.00 – 20.15 on Saturday 7th July 2007, 3 basking sharks about 1 km NW of Peel breakwater. I sat taking some photos from my kayak then would predict the shark’s trajectory and anticipate that it would or might pass by me. So I jumped into the water from my sit-on-top kayak with mask, fins and snorkel and equipped with my underwater digital camera clicked away. On several occasions the sharks did pass by and I snapped away despite the poor visibility, the large preponderance of jellyfish and a generally variable evening as regards weather (cloudy, showers, sun).

Having dreamt of Saturday evening’s encounters I awoke Sunday 8th July early to be greeted by a cloudless sky and little wind. So after a few coffees and wanting to avoid the boat engines later on in the day I set off from Peel harbour at about 07.10 and sat by the orange marker buoy about 1km NW in Peel Bay. I sat for 35 minutes taking in the sun’s rays observing the surrounding sea when a fin broke the surface about 07.55. I watched motionless but it disappeared. Ten minutes later it resurfaced. I then followed keeping my distance as it swam further out to sea. By around 08.20 and between 2 to 3 miles out I was observing 5 sharks, two of which were following each other nose to tail and parallel swimming.

I decided today that I would test out my video so anticipating the shark’s path and movements I jumped in whenever I thought it was going to pass by. Not always successful this required me to clamber in and out of the kayak. On successful occasions the shark passed by me enabling me to video it feeding or swimming. On two occasions I videoed two sharks parallel swimming as can be seen from the footage. At times when I was just sat motionless or even in the water the shark(s) would approach me as if they were checking me out. An observation is that the sharks carrying out the courtship behaviour did not do it continuously. Often it would be nose to tail following, then splitting and going for a feed, then resuming swimming parallel to each other, then going for a feed. This behaviour was present on both Saturday evening as well as Sunday morning. I left all 5 sharks still on the surface around 09.35 and got back to the breakwater at around 10.05.