THE first basking shark of the year in west Cornwall waters has been spotted.
Arriving a little later than usual, the gentle giant was seen swimming off Porthcurno last week.
Believed to be a young shark – stretching just 2m compared to up to 12m for a fully grown animal – it was a welcome sight for spotters.
The UK's first basking shark sighting this year was last month when a pair were seen off St Anthony's Head in the Roseland.
"It's very exciting; every year I can't wait to see them," said Rory Goodall from Elemental Tours in Penzance, who collates information on shark sightings. "You see the same animals year after year and can tell them apart because each has distinguishing marks."
Mr Goodall said that because of the chilly winter it had taken a little longer than normal to see the tell-tale fins appear in our waters. The first basking shark sighting off Cornwall last year was on March 8 .
"The sea temperatures have been down which has stopped the growth of plankton, the food they eat," he said.
All basking shark sightings are added to a database and handed over to the Shark Trust and Cornwall Wildlife Trust.
"Globally, basking sharks are threatened, so we like to make a note of each one we have seen so we know what they are doing, how many there are and things like that," said Mr Goodall.
In 2010 a code of conduct was also brought in by the Shark Trust to help protect the docile animals from disturbance and harassment by water users. Ali Hood, director of conservation, said: "The waters around Cornwall play host to a phenomenal diversity of sharks, skates and rays. Most can't be seen from above the water but the basking shark is a fine example of a species we do get the privilege of sighting.
"Understanding the movement of basking sharks throughout the summer months helps give a greater awareness of the productivity and health of our marine environment. Noting the size and activity of sharks increases this knowledge and photos of the dorsal fin adds greatly to our information base."
Anyone who spots a basking shark is advised not to disturb it but to view it from a safe distance. For more information and to log a sighting, visit www.baskingsharks.org