Getting Involved: Basking Shark Scotland Tours

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By Brinkley Dinsmore

Cetorhinus maximus  is known by many names—sun-fish, bone shark, elephant shark, sail-fish, hoe-mother—but most commonly as the basking shark. This name is derived from their seasonal behavior of floating along the surface of the water, ‘basking’ in the sun, enormous mouths open wide for feeding. They don’t call them gentle giants just because they’re one of three species of plankton-eating sharks —these fish are the second largest fish in the world, sometimes reaching 12m in length. And where are these massive, passive sharks to be found when summer rolls around?  According to Shane Wasik, “the Western Isles of Scotland could be one of the most important international hotspots for them.”

Shane is the owner and operator of Basking Shark Scotland, a IMCC3 Basking Shark Scotland Logogroup dedicated not only to leading boat tours that allow people to see these amazing animals in person, but also to responsible practices concerning wildlife tourism.

Historically the basking shark has been targeted, because of it’s size and slow speed, for its valuable leather, meat, and liver oil. In the UK they now flourish under full protection, recently granted in 1998 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). Similar full protection has been granted in Malta, New Zealand, and parts of the United States, and the species has partial protection under CITES.

Nevertheless, their commercial value has led to over-exploitation and severe depletion of populations. Demand for basking shark products is still high in Asia, where the fins are used in soup and cartilage is an ingredient of traditional Chinese medicine. The continued need to protect these animals has resulted in compelling conservation efforts that have seen growing interest in the last several years, in part because of operations like Basking Shark Scotland.

If you find yourself heading to Scotland this summer, it would be a perfect time to take a tour and get involved, as Shane tells us that “Seasonally in summer months they arrive in big numbers, attracted by rich plankton and possibly for mating. Truly an ocean wanderer, some tagged sharks from the area have travelled as far as the Canary Islands and crossed the Atlantic reaching a depth of over 1200m.” The migratory habits of these sharks make scientific study of them difficult, and as always, conservation work is not yet finished.

Shane and his crew consciously contribute to the responsible study of and development of interest in these animals. Shane explains why, saying that as the basking shark is “already protected in UK waters, given the sharks massive migrations it’s of great importance that the sharks have full international protection due their low fecundity rate.  During our Basking Shark trips numerous data is recorded so that continuous monitoring of the population can be undertaken and fed back to both Scottish and internationally based scientists.”

Interested in getting more involved in the conservation of these enigmatic wonders of the ocean? Shane’s Basking Shark Scotland is offering reduced rates on basking shark outings for IMCC3 delegates.  For more information and to take advantage of this opportunity, visit the IMCC3 Discounted Activities page.

 —Brinkley Dinsmore graduated in May 2014 from George Mason University, where she studied English and Biology. She is the Communications Intern for IMCC3 and plans to stay involved in the world of conservation communication. 

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Plenary Focus: Dr. Heather Koldewey Highlights Positive Examples of Marine Conservation

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Dr. Heather Koldewey, marine biologist and seahorse specialist, will be featured as a plenary speaker at the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress in August 2014. (Photo courtesy of Heather Koldewey)

Dr. Heather Koldewey, marine biologist and seahorse specialist, will be featured as a plenary speaker at the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress in August 2014.
(Photo courtesy of Heather Koldewey)

Dr. Heather Koldewey is involved in several projects around the world, making her familiar with the diverse difficulties in marine research, as well as incidences of conservation success. The Head of Global Conservation Programmes for the Zoological Society of London, she is also a co-founder of Project Seahorse. She strives to directly engage aquariums in marine conservation initiatives and has researched the impact of the aquarium trade on marine fishes and invertebrates. She is currently involved in marine conservation projects in the Philippines, Mozambique, Cameroon and the UK Overseas Territories, particularly the Chagos archipelago and the Pitcairn Islands.

Koldewey has led innovative approaches and partnerships at ZSL and will be speaking at the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC3) on hope and innovation in marine conservation. Koldewey explains that many marine conservation issues have been identified, and she hopes to inspire action to realize the means to resolve those issues. “By highlighting some positive examples in marine conservation, I hope to generate more energy behind the replication of positive case studies and build on solutions,” she stated.

Koldewey is considered an expert of many facets of conservation. She has studied topics such as marine and freshwater conservation, seahorse biology and genetics, the impacts of aquaculture and sustainable seafood, to name a few. For her doctoral dissertation, she studied the genetics of brown trout (Salmo trutta) in Welsh rivers. She is a research associate at University College London and the University of Exeter. She is also a board member of the Chagos Conservation Trust and Shark Trust. Additionally, she is the Chair of the Fish Section of the IUCN Re-introduction Specialist Group and a UK government zoo inspector.

Koldewey said she is honored to be a plenary speaker for IMCC3. She stated, “IMCC3 provides an extraordinary opportunity to capitalize on having an international, diverse, high-caliber group of people in the same place at the same time, to focus on solutions and make big, bold and positive changes for our oceans. I feel lucky to have the chance to share my experiences – and to listen and to learn.”

Koldewey will be featured as an IMCC3 plenary speaker on 15 August 2014 at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow to kick off the main scientific program.

Follow Koldewey on Twitter @HeatherKoldewey.

Samantha Oester is Communications Chair for IMCC3. She can be reached at soester@gmu.edu for information on the IMCC3 Plenary Speakers and other facets of the Congress.

Glasgow: IMCC3 Host City a Must-Visit

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Don’t just take our word for it…
The IMCC 2014 host city, Glasgow, has been celebrated by numerous world-leading publications, travel guides and websites as a must-visit destination in 2014. Here is a selection of what they had to say:

Rough Guides – Top 10 Cities for 2014
“In the past few decades, Scotland’s biggest city has emerged as a cultural powerhouse. The River Clyde, which once ferried tobacco traders towards the city, now flows past smoking-hot artists’ studios and museums, which have appeared in rejuvenated docks.”

Jetsetter – Where to Go in 2014
“With a string of thumping live music venues, a sartorial scene to rival London’s and a skyline shaped by starchitects, Glasgow is Scotland’s creative capital and longtime hipper sister to tourist-packed Edinburgh.”

Wanderlust – 10 Destinations for 2014
“In Glasgow, you’ll be bowled over with the amount of options on offer – seek out historic sites, visit the city’s parks and gardens, explore the impressive gastronomic scene or soak up the cultured art scene in one of the city’s many galleries.”

The Telegraph – Twenty destinations for 2014
“Expect a warm welcome from one of the world’s friendliest cities. The city is summed up by its marketing slogan ‘People Make Glasgow’.”

International Business Times – 14 Destinations For 2014
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a more exciting time to go to Glasgow than the coming year when Scotland’s largest city plays host to a preponderance of international events.

The Guardian – UK Travel Hot List & Global Holiday Hotspots
“2014 would be a good time to rediscover Scotland’s largest city as it welcomes the world during what is, perhaps, the biggest year in its history.”

Marie Claire – 8 Must-Visit Destinations That Make Us Want To Book a Holiday Today
“The Commonwealth Games hit Glasgow in July and travel insiders expect a resulting year-long buzz in this friendly city, which boasts a vibrant art, theatre and music scene.”

RyanAir’s in-flight magazine Let’s Go – Great Escapes of 2014
“Over the last decade, Glasgow has morphed into a veritable entertainment nexus. World beating athletics, concerts and comedy nights keep Scotland’s largest city rocking all year long – and 2014 is on course to be its biggest yet.”

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(Photo: Samantha Oester)

International Marine Conservation Congress: Making Marine Science Matter

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This video highlights clips and interviews from the 2nd International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC2), held in 2010 in Victoria, Canada. The video also previews IMCC3, to be held in August 2014. It shows the incredible importance of IMCC and marine conservation.

The video features interviews of: IMCC2 Chair Ellen Hines, Jeff Ardon of the Marine Conservation Institute, Nick Dulvy of Simon Fraser University, Philip Dearden of the University of Victoria, Nancy Knowlton of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Kerstin Forsberg of Planeta Oceano.

The International Marine Conservation Congress: Making Marine Science Matter