Just back from surveying in Norway with Claudia Junge for basking sharks – brugde. We had surveyed the Lofoten Islands last year and Claudia surveyed around Christiansund earlier this year. From our data, the basking sharks seemed to be moving across the wide continental shelf east of Norway and going north at this time of year, so we followed them and covered a wide area in Nordland in the Arctic Circle.
The weather was superb on our boat survey out to Grønfjord, about 20 km offshore and south of Bodø, where basking shark had been seen a few days beforehand. The plankton the basking shark had probably fed on had in the interim been washed out by a north wind. This left us with large shoals of mackerel and cod, puffins, a single black guillemot, some terns and gulls as well as a fin whale, but no brugde. After interviewing local people and putting up posters as far south as Inndyr and across to Sørarnøy and its neighbouring islands, we headed north to the realm of Knut Hamsun. From our base in Tømmernes, we gathered sightings from the fjords; everyone we interviewed was very helpful and accommodating.
We are now able to begin to put together what the status of Norway’s basking shark population is and where hotspots are likely to be. Along with the public sighting scheme and leafleting, our next step is to target two more areas that both historically and currently have had basking sharks. Are these the same ones that I study on the west coast of Scotland or are they a separate population? Have the numbers begun to recover from the intensive targeted basking shark fisheries? Watch this space!