A MARINE life expert has predicted a good summer for basking shark spotters after five were seen in this season’s first trip off Scotland’s coast.
With their metre-wide jaws, the sharks, which grow to the size of a double decker bus, are the second-largest fish in the world after the whale shark.
Underwater photographer Shane Wasik, from Basking Shark Scotland, was able to capture an image of a female shark that shows a mirror image reflected on the water surface.
Mr Wasik photographed the shark off the coast of Coll on the trip on Friday.
He said: “We travelled about 95 nautical miles all round the Hebrides and saw five basking sharks in different places off the coast of Coll and Mull.
“The ones we saw were about four-to-six metres long, so they were probably young ones – last year we saw some that were eight-to-ten metres long.”
He added: “We follow a code of practice and never touch the sharks. I was about two to three metres away when I took the photo.”
Basking sharks, renowned for travelling vast distances, come to spend summer in the Hebrides from a variety of winter homes ranging from the other side of the Atlantic to the Canaries.
They have arrived in Scottish waters two weeks earlier than last year. The Oban photographer, 32, who also runs a “swimming with sharks” business, said: “We don’t know for sure where they all come from but there is a lot of plankton in the water at the moment and they come for the food.”
He added: “There were two female sharks that were quite close to each other and the other three were spread out. You sometimes get big schools of them and sometimes they are isolated.”
This is Mr Wasik’s third season taking tourists on basking shark viewing trips from Oban and the second year he has offered people the chance of escorted outings to swim with the creatures.
He said: “They are absolutely incredible, the width of their mouth can be over a metre and the dorsal fin can be over a metre too. They feed on plankton, they filter feed, they cover the area of an Olympic size swimming pool in an hour to get their food.
“Basking sharks really tend to ignore you completely – they are not worried by human presence at all. We are on average only 1.5 metres long and they are on average six-to-eight metres long, although they can grow to ten metres long and one metre wide.”
He added: “They are at the surface because they feed on plankton, so from our point of view that makes them easier to spot.”
From the amount of plankton in the sea Mr Wasik is forecasting a good season.
He said: “I think this is going to be a better season than last year, when we didn’t see them until mid June, we are seeing them a little bit earlier this year. The amount of marine life that is about is an indication it’s going to be a good year.
“They were pretty lucky people on the trip, they were very happy.”