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A basking shark in the sea off Baltimore, County Cork. Alamy Stock Photo
Irish sharks

Basking sharks to be granted 'protected wild animals' status

The giant basking sharks feed on plankton and are regularly seen swimming slowly through the seas off Ireland.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS announced that basking sharks are to be given the status of a ‘protected wild animal’ under the Wildlife Act.

Malcolm Noonan, Minister of State for Heritage and electoral Reform said that a collaborative Code of Conduct for the eco tourism and wildlife watching industry will be developed.

The giant basking sharks feed on plankton and are regularly seen swimming slowly through the seas off Ireland.  

Studies have shown that Irish waters are home to between 15% and 20% of the world’s basking shark population. 

Minister Noonan said that the protections will be finalised in the coming months. 

“Basking sharks are extraordinary creatures and they’re facing increasing pressures from a range of sources, including disturbance.

“This move will confer legal protections on them in the short term and enhance their protection in the longer term through the collaborative development of a Code of Conduct to support best practice in sustainable eco tourism. 

“The forthcoming review of the Wildlife Act, as per the Programme for Government, will also enable further consideration of aspects of protection,” he said. 

Darragh O’Brien, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, welcomed the move and said that it follows a long campaign. 

“This is great news for the Basking shark and for the many people that have been calling for its protection.

“Marine protection is a vital element of the work we do in this Department and strong progress is being made in that regard, particularly on Marine Protected Areas, which will form a crucial pillar in ensuring that we have a clean, healthy, diverse and sustainably used marine environment,” he said. 

basking-shark-cetorhinus-maximus-underwater-view-baltimore-cork-ireland asking shark (Cetorhinus maximus), underwater view, Baltimore, Cork, Ireland. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The new regulations under the Wildlife Act 1976 will prevent the no regulated hunting of the animal, it will also make it illegal to injure such a wild animal and make it illegal to interfere with its breeding or resting places. 

Christopher O’Sullivan, west Cork TD warmly welcomed the news. 

“I’ve been lucky enough to have seen these giants of the of the ocean off the coast of cork on numerous occasions.

“They’re the second biggest fish in the world and they really are gentle giants. If you’re ever in the south-west coast between the months of May, June or July then you have a great chance of seeing one from any headland or beach,” he said. 

The move has been welcomed by the Green Party, Social Democrats.

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