Today we were surprised to see the first basking shark of the year. I’m not sure why we were surprised as our first basking shark sighting normally comes in early April. The longer days trigger the phytoplankton bloom – longer hours of daylight allow increased photosynthesis. The diatoms and coccolithophore populations rapidly grow as they feed on the nutrients stirred up over the winter. The increased numbers of phytoplankton allow the zooplankton population to grow and this in turn attracts the basking sharks.
The last two years have seen poor numbers of basking sharks off the Cornish coast so we are interested to see what 2016 will bring. There are a myriad of factors that influence the distribution of these iconic animals and Tom Horton is leading our research in to which factors most influence the distribution of basking sharks across around the south west of the UK. We hope to publish a scientific paper on this shortly.