First Basking Shark of 2013

The first basking shark of the year has been spotted in West Cornwall waters.   Arriving a little later than usual the gentle giant was seen swimming off Porthcurno last week.

Believed to be a young shark, stretching just two metres compared to up to 12 metres for a fully grown animal, it was a welcome sight for spotters.  “It is very exciting, every year I can’t wait to see them,” said Rory Goodall, from Elemental Tours in Penzance, who collates information on shark sightings.

“You see the same animals year after year and can tell them apart because each one has distinguishing marks.”   Mr Goodall said that thanks to the chilly winter it had taken a little longer than normal to see the tell tale fins appear in our waters. The first basking shark was seen in Cornwall on March 8 last year.   “The sea temperature has been down which has stopped the growth of plankton, the food they eat,” he said.   All basking shark sightings are added to a data base and handed over to the Shark Trust and Cornwall Wildlife Trust.   “It is all to do with conservation,” he said.   “Globally basking sharks are threatened so we like to make a note of each one we have seen so we know what they are doing, how many there are and things like that.”

If you spot a basking shark the best advice is not to disturb it but view it from a safe distance.   For more information and to log a sighting, visit

Read more:

Sea Watch Foundation Whale report goes public. Radio Cornwall.

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For an update on our previous posts about the recent Whale sighting “We’ve had a whale of a time in Cornwall over Easter”  April 17th, and the importance of reporting any wildlife sightings. “Are you Reporting your Wildlife Sightings?”, May 20th: why not tune into the Lawrence Reed’s show on BBC Radio Cornwall (today 23rd May) by clicking the link below:


“Baskers” large and small

Enjoying some great, albeit changeable, weather here in West Cornwall: Overcast yesterday but absolutely sparkling today and generally warming up. The sea looks amazing! On the wildlife front we got some great news too! Just after hearing of another multiple sighting in the Newquay area, We spotted three Basking Sharks, ourselves, yesterday, from the cliffs on the North West coast when we were doing an overland walk for Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Fox Club. Kids and adults all very excited!  Although, there have been a few, isolated individuals, spotted over the last month or so, It’s encouraging to see them appearing now in more significant numbers. We were lucky have plenty of other wildlife sightings on our walk too, including a smaller but equally exciting and beautiful Cornish ‘basker’ -  several Common Lizards, we spotted warming themselves on paths and hedges.

Are you reporting your wildlife sightings?

Do you live locally or are you going to be on holiday here any time soon? Do remember we’re interested in hearing about any of your wildlife encounters here at ET.  Rory helps collate Cornwall’s wildlife sightings public records, and if what you see is significant you can be sure he’ll pass it on to the relevant organisation with your name tag on it.

Because of its unique position on the southern edge of Europe and the Atlantic Ocean, all kinds of rare and unusual animals, and lets not forget, flotsam and jetsam, can turn up here, in Cornwall. As a local expert with a keen eye on wildlife changes and a wide connection to many of the relevant wildlife organisations and research projects, Rory is often asked by the media for his opinions on unusual phenomena and how it might relate to climate change issues.

As Rory says “Anything’s possible here”. It’s important to have a sense of discovery, a notion, that things that you see, and don’t recognise, aren’t necesarily not known only to you. They might be ‘not known’ to anyone! They might be a new or rare species and we want to hear about it. In 2007, for example, Rory, noticing something unusual in the water off his boat, knew intinctively that he should try to record what he saw and ask more questions. His find was identified later by a foremost syphonophore expert from the British Museum, as a “string-jelly”  Apollimia Uvaria.  A first ever record for these waters. Around that time too, on a guided Strandline Safari, Rory, who’d been alerted to the possibility by one of Cornwall’s top Marine Biologists Stella Turk, due to the conducive currents at the time, was keeping his eye out for a rare crab species. He was rewarded by discovering a trio of Columbus Crabs ( marine experts in the UK had been looking out for them without luck for 20 years) clinging to a polystyrene fishing float, amongst a colony of goose barnacles. The crabs were a tiny but rare rare find, so remember nothing is too small or insignificant to explore further. By collecting these records, and centralising them on one database, scientists are able to create better pictures of what is happening in our ever changing environment. So remember take a picture with your phone or camera if you have one, or take some notes, and give your local Wildlife Trust a call!


Dolphin friendly? – Food for thought!

Recent discoveries on our Cornish coast highlight the debate again on the value we and others place on our marine wildlife.

In my role as a Marine Strandings Volunteer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust I was called out recently to attend and record a dolphin carcass washed up on Mousehole Beach. The animal’s tail had been removed and a large part of its back quarters was missing. It was immediately evident to me that this was unlikely to be a ‘natural’ injury. The clean, straight cuts had been made with something very sharp and I immediately thought ( being a bit of a chef myself !) by someone who knew what they were doing in terms of “filleting” fish. When I phoned in my findings to CWT Strandings HQ I was dismayed to hear that there had been several others found, around the same time, with similar mutilations. ( For more on this story see the Western Morning News or the Telegraph. ) “Filleting” and eating the meat from by-catch Dolphins, is, an accepted practice amongst some  fishermen. So how does this reflect our attitudes at home and what impact might the practice have on local and global conservation efforts? Is this a similar debate to the one about wearing old fur? One argument being it’s dead anyway so we might as well use it? The other side being, if you wear it you’re advertising it and encouraging its negative commercial value . And, importantly what does the “discovery of filleted dolphins” issue say, by implication, about the level of concern, both here and abroad about, non-sustainable fishing practices and the by-catch threat to protected marine mammals? Let us know what you think?