The good weather on Sunday revealed more than just the Easter bunny as basking sharks returned early to Hebridean waters.
The giant sharks usually arrive in the summer but recent winter storms are thought to have unlocked the nutrients for a very early bloom of zooplankton, the shark’s favourite food.
Yesterday during a research trip Basking Shark Scotland sighted around 10 of the fish near the isle of Coll, making this one of the earliest sightings to ever be recorded in these waters, as well as across the UK.
It is thought that the reported sightings could be among the first in the UK this year.
The creatures, which can grow up to 36ft and weigh up to seven tonnes – around the same size as a double-decker bus – are the second largest fish in the world after the whale shark, making them an impressive and hauntingly beautiful sight at sea.
The UK is home to several basking shark hotspots, including the seas off the west coast of Scotland, off the Isle of Man and around Cornwall.
Areas such as Cornwall have had very poor sightings during the last few years, but usually have some of the first.
However this early arrival and large number of reported sightings confirms that the Hebrides is still the best place in the world for visitors to see these spectacular giants of the deep.
Shane Wasik of Basking Shark Scotland, said: “We were hugely excited about the early arrival. We would normally be expecting them from May onwards, however it’s both intriguing and amazing to have them early.
“One possible reason for the early arrival and plankton bloom could be in conjunction with the frequent high wind and storms this winter which could have unlocked natural upwelling and nutrients availability in the Atlantic. This in turn has provided the perfect conditions for generating shark food.”