Basking shark satellite tracking

As part of a continuing project, the University of Exeter and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) have attached satellite tracking tags to nearly 50 basking sharks in the seas around the Inner Hebrides, off Scotland's west coast, since the summer of 2012.

These tags enable scientists and members of the public to track the movements of the sharks on the SNH website in close-to-real time. 

The project team uses a range of tracking devices to gather more information on how the sharks use the area and where they go in winter. The results will help the Scottish Government decide whether a Marine Protected Area should be put in place to safeguard the sharks and to balance environmental interests with industry and recreation. In the programme’s first year, two sharks travelled much further than expected; one reached the west coast of Portugal and the other the Canary Islands, just off Africa, over 3000 km away.

Our research shows that basking sharks could be recovering from the extensive hunting that took place in the 20th century. Anyone who has had the experience of seeing a basking shark from our coastline will know what awe-inspiring creatures they are and our research suggests that more of us may be fortunate enough to see them in the future.

Professor Brendan Godley, Professor of Conservation Science / Director of the Centre for Ecology & Conservation.

The area where the study is being undertaken overlaps with an offshore wind farm proposal west of Tiree, known as the Argyll Array. The tagging project will provide information about the use of this area by the sharks, giving additional confidence to the advice which SNH provides to Marine Scotland as the development goes through the licensing process.