Basking Sharks - one of the largest fish in the World
Basking sharks are not marine mammals like whales, dolphins and porpoises [cetaceans] but large fish, though in terms of excitement when we come up close to them on our eco tours they easily equal them and are always a big hit with the kids [and the adults]. We spot them when they cruise on the surface of the water, their enormous mouths wide open as they filter the water for plankton.
They are the biggest fish in the North Atlantic and the second biggest fish in the world, after the whale shark, and you can see a sizable number of the world population [40,000] around the Blaskets during the summer, especially early summer when water temp. is about 12 degrees C.
basking shark and blasket princess
basking shark and boat
basking shark at blasket island ireland
basking shark from Slea Head
It is hard to believe that, like whales, these beautiful big creatures, sometimes up to 12 metres in length, were almost hunted to extinction for the oil in their liver which is 1/3 their body weight and might weigh in at a few ton and give 30 or 40 barrels of oil.
They are also still hunted, mostly by Japanese [like whales] and Koreans but also by some European nations [illegally as there is now E.U. wide prohibition against fishing for shark or landing as by-catch] for their dorsal fin in order to make shark fin soup.
The Irish word for basking shark is Ainmhí Sheoil – the beast with the sail – and there is also a place name on the south side of the Great Blasket Island where shoals congregate called Gleann na bPéist [Valley or Glen of the Sea Serpent]. When you see dorsal and tail fins of a group of basking shark they are not dissimilar to a long twisting sea serpent.
But, you read it here, we can not guarantee to show you Sea Serpents – at least not on every trip!
Please be aware that there are days when we don’t see whales, dolphins or shark but there is always the beautiful scenery of the Dingle Peninsula and if you are well wrapped up and warm [Skipper Mick sells lovely woolly hats on board] look around you at the beautiful seascapes and landscapes and enjoy life on the ocean billow with us!