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Sharks
Angel sharks are among the species believed to use the nursery hidden under Tralee Bay
Tralee Bay is a “major nursery” for sharks and rays in Irish waters, says a local marine wildlife expert. And Kevin Flannery insists the important breeding ground for the likes of angel sharks and porbeagle sharks needs protection. Marine biologist…
Basking sharks feeding off Kilkee in Co Clare
How many basking sharks have reclaimed the waters off the South and West Coasts? “We don’t really know” is the honest answer from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group. But after a video of surfers in a close encounter with…
One of the basking sharks filmed by surfers off Co Clare at the weekend
A surfing quartet got up close with a school of basking sharks off Co Clare at the weekend, as the Irish Examiner reports. The surfers had brought a GoPro camera to video their wave-riding exploits, which came in handy to…
Darren Craig taking a mucus sample from a basking shark off West Kerry
Basking sharks which were sampled off the west Kerry coast in early Spring have proved to be genetically different to all other such sharks tested in the north-east Atlantic, according to a newly published study writes Lorna Siggins. The study…
Chimaeras, also known as rabbitfish, are closely related to sharks and skates
Experts in shark biology, data and mapping recently met at the Marine Institute’s headquarters in Oranmore, Co Galway to map the distribution of deepwater sharks, skates and chimaeras in the North-East Atlantic Ocean. Scientists and marine experts at the International…
A basking shark photographed off Malin Head, Co. Donegal
The Friends of Glenua 2019/20 Winter Lectures, in aid of the RNLI, resumes on Thursday 16 January at the Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club, Dublin. An entry contribution of €5 is in aid of the RNLI and the subject of…
A feeding basking shark showing the characteristic white gape
An endangered basking shark showed up off North America three years after it was tagged in Ireland, according to new research published by Irish and Canadian scientists. A female basking shark which was fitted with a satellite transmitter at Malin…
Blue Shark caught by Atlantic longline
The fastest sharks in the oceans find few refuges from longline fishing, according to an international study writes Lorna Siggins. The study published in Nature yesterday bears out the concerns of Irish scientists who have called for greater protection of…
A migrating smooth hammerhead, swimming with its dorsal fin exposed, off the US east coast
A shark species previously unrecorded in Irish waters has been sighted in the Celtic Sea. A smooth hammerhead shark was reported on the edge of the continental shelf, south-west of Ireland, during a recent fisheries survey on the Marine Institute’s…
A Spanish fishing vessel has pleaded guilty to catches of Blue Shark off the Irish coast
Irish shark experts have called on newly elected MEPs to outlaw the growing shark fin fishery in European waters, following a fine imposed on a Spanish fishing vessel detained off the Irish coast. The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has…
Endangered species – Angel Shark
Angel shark are in such a perilous state of decline in Irish waters that a group of marine environmentalists has appealed for urgent action by Minister for Fisheries Michael Creed writes Lorna Siggins Sharks, rays and skates are the most threatened…
Hook Head Angler In Close Encounter With Shark
#Angling - Hours after a Belfast angler had a close call with a blue shark on an angling trip off Cork, a Wexford angler got more than he expected at the end of his line last weekend. As Independent.ie reports,…
Blue sharks rarely bite humans - and the recent incident on a boat off Roches Point is being put down to an angling accident
#Angling - A Belfast angler bitten by a blue shark at the weekend resumed his sea fishing trip within days of the incident, as the Belfast Telegraph reports. Robert Malcolmson was rushed to the mainland by Crosshaven RNLI last Saturday…

Sharks in Irish waters

Irish waters are home to 71 species of shark, skates and rays, 58 of which have been studied in detail and listed on the Ireland Red List of Cartilaginous fish. Irish sharks range from small Sleeper sharks, Dogfish and Catsharks, to larger species like Frilled, Mackerel and Cow sharks, all the way to the second largest shark in the world, the Basking shark. 

Irish waters provide a refuge for an array of shark species. Tralee Bay, Co. Kerry provides a habitat for several rare and endangered sharks and their relatives, including the migratory tope shark, angel shark and undulate ray. This area is also the last European refuge for the extremely rare white skate. Through a European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) project, Marine Institute scientists have been working with fishermen to assess the distribution, diversity, and monthly relative abundance of skates and rays in Tralee, Brandon and Dingle Bays.

“These areas off the southwest coast of Ireland are important internationally as they hold some of the last remaining refuges for angel shark and white skate,” said Dr Maurice Clarke of the Marine Institute. “This EMFF project has provided data confirming the critically endangered status of some species and provides up-to-date information for the development of fishery measures to eliminate by-catch.” 

Irish waters are also home to the Black Mouthed Catshark, Galeus melastomus, one of Ireland’s smallest shark species which can be found in the deep sea along the continental shelf. In 2018, Irish scientists discovered a very rare shark-nursery 200 nautical miles off the west coast by the Marine Institute’s ROV Holland 1 on a shelf sloping to 750 metres deep. 

There are two ways that sharks are born, either as live young or from egg casings. In the ‘case’ of Black Mouthed Catsharks, the nursery discovered in 2018, was notable by the abundance of egg casings or ‘mermaid’s purses’. Many sharks, rays and skate lay eggs, the cases of which often wash ashore. If you find an egg casing along the seashore, take a photo for Purse Search Ireland, a citizen science project focusing on monitoring the shark, ray and skate species around Ireland.

Another species also found by Irish scientists using the ROV Holland 1 in 2018 was a very rare type of dogfish, the Sail Fin Rough Shark, Oxynotus paradoxus. These sharks are named after their long fins which resemble the trailing sails of a boat, and live in the deep sea in waters up to 750m deep. Like all sharks, skates and rays, they have no bones. Their skeleton is composed of cartilage, much like what our noses and ears are made from! This material is much more flexible and lighter than bone which is perfect for these animals living without the weight of gravity.

Throughout history sharks have been portrayed as the monsters of the sea, a concept that science is continuously debunking. Basking sharks were named in 1765 as Cetorhinus maximus, roughly translated to the ‘big-nosed sea monster’. Basking sharks are filter feeders, often swimming with their mouths agape, they filter plankton from the water.

They are very slow moving and like to bask in the sun in shallow water and are often seen in Irish waters around Spring and early Summer. To help understand the migration of these animals to be better able to understand and conserve these species, the Irish Basking Shark Group have tagged and mapped their travels.

Remarkably, many sharks like the Angel Shark, Squatina squatina have the ability to sense electricity. They do this via small pores in their skin called the ‘Ampullae of Lorenzini’ which are able to detect the tiny electrical impulses of a fish breathing, moving or even its heartbeat from distances of over a kilometre! Angel sharks, often referred to as Monkfish have a distinctively angelic shape, with flattened, large fins appearing like the wings of an angel. They live on the seafloor in the coastal waters of Ireland and much like a cat are nocturnal, primarily active at night.

The intricate complexity of shark adaptations is particularly noticeable in the texture of their skin. Composed of miniscule, perfectly shaped overlapping scales, the skin of shark provides them with protection. Often shark scales have been compared to teeth due to their hard enamel structure. They are strong, but also due to their intricate shape, these scales reduce drag and allow water to glide past them so that the shark can swim more effortlessly and silently. This natural flawless design has been used as inspiration for new neoprene fabric designs to help swimmers glide through the water. Although all sharks have this feature, the Leafscale Gulper Shark, Centrophorus squamosus, found in Ireland are specifically named due to the ornate leaf-shape of their scales.

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