Model sub with three cameras to view shark courtship behavior.
http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/Minisub- ... 4882407.jp
Mini-sub to probe behaviour of basking sharks
15 January 2009
By LOTTIE RAY
THE Isle of Man is to host a conference on basking sharks this summer following four years of ground-breaking research.
Experts from all over the world are expected at the three-day scientific event, Basking Sharks: A Global Perspective.
It will be hosted by the Manx Government, the Manx Wildlife Trust and Save our Seas Foundation.
The Island's basking shark population has received worldwide attention since a shark tagged in Manx waters crossed the Atlantic in 2007.
It was previously believed basking sharks on this side of the Atlantic were a completely different group to those off the Americas.
Manx Basking Shark Watch (MBSW) co-ordinator Jackie Hall said: 'We hope to have it (the conference) in Port Erin, and we would love it if the delegates were in hotels there so they could see the sharks from their bedroom windows.'
She said a Canadian expert nearly cried when he saw a shark off the Manx coast last year.
'In Canada, he has to go out 20 miles using two boats and a plane to find basking sharks,' she said.
The government has agreed to help pay for a Manx Wildlife Trust marine officer for three years.
He or she will help with research, assist in collaborating data, manage the website and phone line and present public talks.
MBSW also plans to join the Shark Alliance, a group of scientists calling for worldwide protection for all shark species.
'Every year tens of millions of different sharks are killed for their fins, so people can eat shark fin soup,' said Jackie.
'This is a very cruel practice. The fins are cut off and the shark is thrown back into the sea to die a slow and painful death.'
It is estimated there are now only about 8,200 basking sharks left.
'We are close to losing them,' said Jackie. 'This practice must be stopped and our tagging work lends power to the scientific argument against it.
'Our evidence that these sharks cross the Atlantic has put a whole new light on the urgent need for worldwide conservation measures to be taken.'
There were 564 sightings of up to 1,812 individual sharks off the Manx coast last year.
'We had slightly fewer sightings last year than in 2007,' said Jackie. 'That was because the weather was so awful. I'm sure they were still out there — they just weren't being spotted.'
As well as continuing its research and attaching five more satellite tags to Manx sharks, MBSW received attention from the international press. It also received visits from seven wildlife film crews and three groups of shark scientists.
'This is excellent in many ways as it is good for the Isle of Man wildlife tourism industry, spreading the word about how fantastic our basking shark watching is,' said Jackie.
'However, it did get a bit much for our protected basking sharks at one point and it is probable that the government will issue only three in-water film licences this year.'
Last year's research was helped by the engineering skills of Jackie's husband Graham, who joined her in the MBSW effort.
'With his help and a shoestring budget we were able to put together scientific equipment that was the envy of every visiting scientist,' said Jackie.
She said: 'We can't get close enough to watch the courtship behaviour on the pole camera, so this year we are looking at using a model submarine with three cameras attached to it.'
MBSW is also in the process of writing a report covering the full four years of its research.
And it hopes to tag more sharks this year. It has three tags to re-use but hopes sponsors will come forward to fund further tags costing £3,000 each.
In November, Jackie represented the Island at the annual Shark Association Conference in Portugal.
She was among 120 scientific delegates from all over the world.