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Basking Shark Death

27/07/2007

Monofilament drift netting is thought to be responsible for the stranding of a large basking shark, on the shores of Brandon Bay in Co Kerry

several weeks ago. The three metre long female shark, ( they grow to up to three times that) was found on the shoreline at Drom East, Cloghane wrapped tightly in the netting, its mouth fully covered in the material used in several types of fishing including tuna and the now banned salmon fishing.

Basking sharks are the second biggest fish species in the world and are harmless filter feeders. Like other large marine species they are threatened with extinction.

According to Mick O'Connell of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, numbers of basking sharks are currently off Cork and Kerry and have been in the waters since April. Almost exactly a year ago at nearby Fermoyle beach in Brandon Bay yet another basking shark was also stranded due to monofilament netting, he said.

The plankton feeders had "no reverse gear" and when they hit drift netting there was no way out for them. Only a week ago a group of five sharks swam with divers off Brandon Point, continuing to accompany them throughout the 45 minute dive, Mr O'Connell said.

The largest of the sharks were more than seven metres.

Aidan Barry, chief executive of the South Western Fisheries Board said under the salmon hardship scheme monofilament nets were being collected from fishermen. It was still in use in tuna fishing and in bottom species fishing. There were over 800 drift nets from 800 yards to 1600 yards in the salmon industry and the board was considering calling for an incentive scheme whereby the nets would be handed up in return for payment.

"Part of the reason we are collecting nets under the hardship scheme is to ensure they will not become an environmental problem," Mr Barry said.

There was a general problem at sea of nets being abandoned and continuing to "ghost fish", and threaten species, Mr Barry said.

National Salmon Commission member, Jerome Dowling, a member of the Kerry Anglers Federation, said he believed the incident this weekend involved "an active drift net" used for salmon fishing, even though salmon drift netting is now illegal in the southwest .

"We thought we had put it ( the salmon drift netting using monofilament) behind us," he said.
By Anne Lucey ©

Photographs © Emmett Johnston 2006.