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ESR 41:209-223 (2020)  -  DOI:

Assessing the importance of Isle of Man waters for the basking shark Cetorhinus maximus

Haley R. Dolton1,2, Fiona R. Gell3, Jackie Hall4, Graham Hall4, Lucy A. Hawkes1, Matthew J. Witt1,2,*

1University of Exeter College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Hatherly Laboratories, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter EX4 4PS, UK
2University of Exeter, Environment and Sustainability Institute, Penryn Campus, Cornwall TR10 9FE, UK
3Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture, Thie Slieau Whallian, Foxdale Road, St John’s IM4 3AS, Isle of Man
4Manx Basking Shark Watch, Glenchass Farmhouse, Port St Mary IM9 5PJ, Isle of Man
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Satellite tracking of endangered or threatened animals can facilitate informed conservation by revealing priority areas for their protection. Basking sharks Cetorhinus maximus (n = 11) were tagged during the summers of 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017 in the Isle of Man (IoM; median tracking duration 378 d, range: 89-804 d; median minimum straight-line distance travelled 541 km, range: 170-10406 km). Tracking revealed 3 movement patterns: (1) coastal movements within IoM and Irish waters, (2) summer northward movements to Scotland and (3) international movements to Morocco and Norway. One tagged shark was bycaught and released alive in the Celtic Sea. Basking sharks displayed inter-annual site fidelity to the Irish Sea (n = 3), a Marine Nature Reserve (MNR) in IoM waters (n = 1), and Moroccan waters (n = 1). Core distribution areas (50% kernel density estimation) of 5 satellite tracked sharks in IoM waters were compared with 3902 public sightings between 2005 and 2017, highlighting west and south coast hotspots. Location data gathered from satellite tagging broadly correspond to the current boundaries of MNRs in IoM waters. However, minor modifications of some MNR boundaries would incorporate ~20% more satellite tracking location data from this study, and protective measures for basking sharks in IoM waters could further aid conservation of the species at local, regional and international scales. We also show the first documented movement of a basking shark from the British Isles to Norway, and the longest ever track for a tagged basking shark (2 yr and 2 mo, 804 d).

KEY WORDS: Satellite tracking · Basking shark · Cetorhinus maximus · Public sightings · MPA · Spatial ecology · Irish Sea · Isle of Man

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Cite this article as: Dolton HR, Gell FR, Hall J, Hall G, Hawkes LA, Witt MJ (2020) Assessing the importance of Isle of Man waters for the basking shark Cetorhinus maximus. Endang Species Res 41:209-223.

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