Basking Shark Washes Up on Long Island Beach; Surge in Numbers Off British Coast
Officials from Gilgo State Park, near Jones Beach, report that the basking shark that washed up on their shores has died of an unknown cause. The shark appeared to be dying at the time it came ashore, but officials could find no outward signs damage or distress. According to David Chapman of Stony Brook University, "It didn't die of old age, because they get to 35 or 40 feet." The shark that washed up was only about 20 to 25 feet long, but it was still an imposing site to those who were on the beach at the time.
Basking sharks are the second-largest shark but pose no threat to humans, since they have small teeth and feed on plankton. A necropsy will be performed to determine the cause of death of this particular basking shark.
In related news, conservationists in Britain are petitioning to have basking shark hotspots protected. The record summer temperatures have led to an explosion in the zooplankton population off the coasts of Britain and Ireland, which in turn has lured a greater number of basking sharks into the area. Last year, there were only 26 sightings of basking sharks off the coast of Cornwall, compared to over 900 sightings since the beginning of June this year. The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group recorded 248 basking shark sightings in June alone.
A Marine and Coastal Access Bill currently making its way through British Parliament has introduced "marine conservation zones", a type of protected area in the water. Conservation groups are now hoping that identified basking shark "hotspots" will be dedicated as marine conservation zones. Such dedication would, for example, restrict boat speeds in the area. Says Lissa Goodwin, marine policy officer for the 47 wildlife trusts across the UK, Alderney, and the Isle of Man that are heading the project, the group's principle aim "is to ensure there is no loss in the population size" of basking sharks.