Below is a video of an excellent, inspirational talk from Dr Simon Berrow, a marine biologist dedicated to conserving Basking Sharks (known locally as Liabhán chor gréine which literally means “great fish of the sun”). The talk was given at TEDxDublin and discusses some of the threats facing Basking Sharks and the high tech – and low tech – methods being used to collect data on this relatively poorly understood species.
Notes on the talk
Basking Sharks were fished commercially off Ireland until the 1980’s, the fishery peaked in the 1950’s when several thousand sharks were landed every year. Basking Sharks were targetted for their oil-rich livers (used to power streetlights) and fins, the sharks meat was used as a fertiliser.
Basking sharks were generally considered a temperate species however tagging has shown Basking Sharks crossing the equator around the Caribbean and Brazil.
Scientists have found very low genetic diversity in Basking sharks – this means that there is no way of genetically differentiating between sharks from the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean. So little is known about the sharks that scientists can not even determine the sex of the fish using DNA samples. To date genetic work has been carried out using around 86 DNA samples.
The need to collect more DNA samples from Basking Sharks led Dr Berrow to an interesting solution, he discovered that slime samples from the sharks skin could be used to obtain DNA samples.
In the talk he states “After spending £3,500 on satellite tags I decided I’d invest £7.99 in a mop handle and some over cleaners, in half an hour we managed to take 5 samples using “Simon’s Shark Slime Sampling System!”
The talk can be viewed in full above via Youtube or at http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_berrow_how_do_you_save_a_shark_you_know_nothing_about.html