An Interview with WiseOceans… Shane Wasik from Basking Shark Scotland
This week we’re chatting with Shane from Basking Shark Scotland. Shane highlights that you don’t need to be in the tropics to see incredible marine life, as there’s plenty in the temperate waters. But if you are looking to work in the UK now or in the future then it is well worth gaining experience in this part of the world to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge required.
Name: Shane Wasik
Job Title: Owner
Organisation: Basking Shark Scotland
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
Having grown up on a seaside town, I spent my childhood beside the beach, in the water and on boats. I started snorkelling when quite young and then progressed through to scuba diving in my early teens. So i’ve always been inspired by the underwater world since an early age! Choosing marine biology was easy choice as I was all I ever wanted to do!
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
Spending a lot of my youth in the water certainly helped gain a natural understanding of the ocean, progressing through diving then further complimented that. By the time I was studying marine science then I already had a broad knowledge of the fundamentals of ocean processes and marine life. I would suggest to anyone that wants to be involved in the ocean then explore the underwater world as early as possible!
- How did you land your current job/position?
Having a diverse career in a variety of fields already, I returned to the UK after living in New Zealand for a few years. Having found a lack of opportunities, I decided to cut my own path and work with the wonderful wildlife we have here!
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
Although it can be very challenging at times, being able to experience the amazing days out at sea in the peak season. When we have calm and sunny weather in peak season, the ocean is filled with sharks, whales, dolphins and seabirds. The kelp forests are full with energy and new life and it’s amazing to share these ocean spectacles with people!
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
We’re spending the most time with basking sharks out of any operation in the whole world. Every season we’re finding new behaviours and interesting data! It’s really exciting to be discovering information in this manner.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
Having found a basking shark a couple of years that had been fouled by plastic on it’s nose, it was only after reviewing images that we saw the fouling. We geared up with equipment to help it but didn’t see it again. I always wished that we had seen it again and were able to free it! However the shark did return the next year (within 5 miles and 10 days of the previous sighting) with healed wound and no fouling! It was great to see the healing properties and also that the same sharks are showing yearly site fidelity to our area!
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
What we do is so diverse, that you need to have skills in everything! Ranging from boat handling, safety maintenance and engineering, surveying and sampling skills, species identification, diving, free diving, report wiring, marketing, guiding skills.
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Get as much experience as you can. Whether that’s by exploring and studying the coast yourself, going on tours and learning from guides or from official educational programmes. It’s really hard to get good practical experience especially in the UK. I see a lot of CV’s for jobs from kids that have done overseas research projects but although they are nice to do, it doesn’t prepare you for working in our temperate seas.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
Probably the day we had hot sunny weather flat flat calm seas a couple of summers ago. There was an influx of the gulf stream heating our surface water up to 19deg and everything was just right. We were surrounded by feeding basking sharks and minke whales. One whale really interacted with our boat and we could look down at it just over the side. The water was a deep blue and we also had perfect observations of an ocean sunfish, who I think thought we were there to clean it of parasites. It was incredible!
Thanks Shane, what a relief to hear that you saw the basking shark again! So glad it was able to recover from the plastic. Fantastic too that that sighting was able to help build your knowledge of the basking sharks behaviour in this the area you have dedicated you work.
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