Northern Ireland news

Basking shark swam across the Atlantic from Co Donegal to Cape Cod

A basking shark has been recorded swimming from Co Donegal to the US. File picture from Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation, Press Association

A BASKING shark has been recorded swimming across the Atlantic from Ireland to the US for the first time in more than a decade.

Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast and Western University in Canada have recorded a female basking shark who swam from Malin Head in Co Donegal to Cape Cod in the US.

An underwater photographer captured the shark off the coast of Cape Cod 993 days after it was fitted with a satellite transmitter at Malin Head.

A study published in the Journal of Fish Biology detailed the shark's movement.

It is the first time in over a decade that the endangered species has been spotted making the lengthy journey.

In 2008, a female basking shark tagged with a tracking device was recorded swimming from the Irish Sea to continental waters off the coast of Newfoundland in Canada.

Emmett Johnston, a PhD student at Queen’s and lead author on the study, said: "Over 1500 individual sharks have been equipped with either visual ID or satellite tags in the Atlantic to date leading to just a single record of transoceanic movement, until now."

"This new evidence offers invaluable information to help us better understand the movements of this endangered species within an international context," he said.

Dr Jonathan Houghton, senior lecturer from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s, said: "For this animal to show up across the ocean three years after it was tagged in Ireland highlights that we really need an international mindset when seeking to conserve this species."

Paul Mensink from Western University said the chance sighting was significant.

"In the era of big data, it is amazing how much these fortuitous re-sightings of individual animals can tell us about an entire species," he said.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news