The Irish Government’s announcement that the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) has received the status of ‘protected wild animal’ under the Wildlife Act has been praised by Loughs Agency.
Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, made the declaration on Monday.
The Irish Basking Shark Group (IBSG) was among the organisations responsible for pushing the new regulations through. The group’s ‘Save our Shark’ campaign proved to be a remarkable success, with over 12,000 members of the public signing an online petition.
The basking shark has been classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of globally threatened species, with its status changing from vulnerable to endangered globally in 2019. Basking Sharks are now protected from hunting, injury and wilful destruction of their breeding and resting places in Irish waters under the Wildlife Act.
The basking shark is the largest fish in Irish waters, reaching lengths of more than ten metres and weighing in excess of several tonnes.
Basking sharks have been frequently sighted in both Loughs Agency catchments - in Lough Foyle off the coast of Donegal, as well as in Carlingford Lough.
The Agency has also been heavily involved in conservation efforts for this and other species as part of the SeaMonitor Project, with further updates available in the near future.
Sharon McMahon, CEO of Loughs Agency, said: “We welcome the news that these stunning creatures are now designated as protected under Ireland’s Wildlife Act.
“The threat of extinction is on the increase for the basking shark, and as our waters constitute one of the most internationally important coastal regions for the species, this announcement will serve to ensure our loughs remain a safe space.
“On behalf of Loughs Agency, I would like to thank Ministers Noonan and McConalogue for signing off these regulations.”