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Experts want ‘shark park’ on Wild Atlantic Way

Ireland’s growing tourism industry could soon be boosted further by the unlikely attraction of a ‘shark park’.

The west coast of Ireland is amongst the top places in the world to see basking sharks in the wild.

The incredible creatures regularly populate the waters off the coasts of Counties Mayo, Galway, Clare and Kerry and experts want to create an official shark park to showcase these ocean giants to the world.

Experts want 'shark park' on Wild Atlantic Way

Travel TV of produced a video containing footage of basking sharks in Irish waters and also interviews with experts.

It explains: “Basking sharks are the biggest fish in the Northern Atlantic. They’re endangered but at certain times of the year Ireland offers them a plankton filled paradise.”

Shark expert Dr Pete ‘Hammerhead’ Klimley, who got his nickname by hand-tagging deadly hammerhead sharks, said: “I’ve worked in Mexico, Colombia, in Ecuador, the Galapagos, studying sharks. I’m very involved in the development of marine reserves there where we actually have ‘no fish’ zones around the area to protect the sharks. So I’m well aware of these shark parks, I’m a promoter of them and I think this is a place that there should be one.”

Emmett Johnston of the Irish Basking Shark Study Group said: “You’re talking about a huge animal, the size of a Dublin bus. They’re really just like Ireland’s Giant Panda, you would love to cuddle them. They don’t really have any teeth and they feed on plankton. They’re not dangerous at tall.

“We’re very lucky in Ireland in that it’s one of the best places in the world to encounter and see basking sharks.”

Basking sharks were fished extensively off the coast of Ireland from the 1950s to the 80s for their livers and fins, which contain oils used in many cosmetic products. There is still no legal protection to basking sharks in Irish waters and Johnston insists this needs to be addressed.

Dr Hammerhead added: “I don’t think that people in Ireland really understand what a jewel they have right here. Emmet Johnston tells me he sees 100 basking sharks here, I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world where you can see that and that’s right here in Ireland.”

The proposed ‘shark park’ would be a welcome addition to the already thriving tourism industry in Ireland. The Wild Atlantic Way already attracts thousands of visitors a year, after Tourism Ireland re-marketed the various hot-spots along the west coast into one big adventure holiday.

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