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Dooagh National School sends shark message to visitors to Achill Island on Earth Day

The Basking Sharks are back and the children of Dooagh NS on Achill Island, completing the Marine Institute’s Explorers Healthy Ocean Project, created a message for the locals and tourists at Keel beach on Earth Day (22nd April 2024), to respect our wildlife and keep your distance from these gentle giants.

Irene Patten, Dooagh NS Principal, congratulated the children on their life size basking shark measuring 8 metres long made of sand and rocks and importantly, the message using rocks for everyone to see: “Please respect our Sharks”.

“The children are celebrating the work that they have done over the last couple of months learning about sharks as part of the Explorers school project, focusing on creating a healthy ocean. With so many basking sharks seen feeding in the water around Achill this week, it is wonderful to make the connection that we all need to care for our ocean and the animals that live there. It was wonderful to see the children spend a very enjoyable morning at Keel Beach where they showed great creativity and teamwork in making two life-size basking sharks from pebbles on the beach and a message to help protect the gentle giants who deserve their safe space in the waters around Achill,” Ms Patten said.

“The Irish saying: Chomh sámh le liamhán gréine, which means As tranquil as a basking shark, is important to remember when we see the sharks bathing in the sun and feeding. They are the second largest shark in the world, measuring in average between 5 – 7 meters in length. Some have been recorded at 11 meters. Although they may seem ‘gentle’, they are busy feeding on plankton and can filter 2000 tons of water per hour as they swim along with their mouths wide open,” explained Sorsha Kennedy, Explorers Education officer.

Basking Sharks have been granted legal protection under Irelands Wildlife Act as they are listed as globally Endangered with the IUCN. “We are therefore very lucky to see these sharks around Achill each summer, which are best observed safely and peacefully from land. The children are very excited about protecting their sharks back – and to complete their outing on the seashore they carried out a beach clean where they collected and removed 10 bags of plastic that had been washed ashore. Today the Dooagh NS students left some very important healthy ocean messages, to respect wildlife, observe sharks from a safe distance and help keep plastics from the ocean!” Sorsha added.

The Irish Basking Shark Group ( has created a Code of Conduct to help prevent harmful interactions between people and Basking Sharks recommending that people stay at least 4 metres away and they should not try to approach the animals. They encourage people to take photos at a distance and to record the location at time sharks were observed. This helps scientists ensure that they are monitored and are given the necessary protection while in Irish waters.

For further information on Basking Sharks in Irish waters contact the Irish Basking Shark Group or The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.