The Donegal-based Irish Basking Shark Study Group has demanded Minister of Arts, Heritage, Gaelteacht and the Islands, Jimmy Deenihan to provide legal protection to basking sharks.
Hundreds of the majestic animals have arrived off the coast of Ireland in recent weeks with Donegal being rich in the huge creatures.
Scientist Emmett Johnston, based in Inishowen, heads up the research project to understand more about the basking shark.
However, the sharks, the second largest fish in the world’s oceans, have no legal protection under Irish law.
Up until the 1950s the creatures were hunted across Ireland for the oil from their liver with more than 1,500 of the massive creature killed.
Although the docile creatures are not hunted anymore, there are fears they are still vulnerable to being attacked or caught up in devices used for renewable energy.
A spokesman for the group said “The basking shark is a true oceanic citizen which respects no territorial boundaries, it has a unique place in Irish maritime heritage and we are privileged to have access in Ireland to such an inspiring animal.
“With this opportunity also comes a responsibility to ensure its protection and safe passage whilst present in Ireland’s waters.”
The group has written to Minister Deenihan impressing upon him the tourism potential of the basking shark which is already being tapped into here in Co Donegal.