Basking shark's carcass recovered
The carcass of a young basking shark has been recovered off the Northern Ireland coast.
The remains, which were almost nine feet long and weighed more than five stones (34kg), were found a day after reports of a young shark stranded near Millisle, Co Down.
Vets from the Agri-Food Biosciences Institute are expected to carry out a post-mortem examination to determine the exact cause of death, although early indications suggest the pup was malnourished.
Stephen Foster, marine division species adviser with the Department of the Environment (DoE), said the recovery of such a young animal was unusual.
"An adult basking shark is one of nature's gentle giants; although they are the second largest fish in the sea, they are docile plankton-feeders who spend the spring and summer swimming near the surface in our coastal waters filtering enormous quantities of water to abstract the tiny animals that form their food.
"The recovery of the body of a very young basking shark is an unusual event and although it is sad to note the demise of such a fine animal, the recovery of the carcass will allow DoE and collaborating researchers a rare opportunity to study such a young specimen."
Basking sharks were previously heavily fished and numbers declined so dramatically the species was classified as endangered in the Northeast Atlantic.
In Northern Ireland waters, they are protected under the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985 which makes it a n offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb, injure, capture or kill them.
Mr Foster added: "If you have the good fortune to encounter one of these superb creatures, please keep at a respectful distance and operate watercraft in a careful manner."