The Irish Basking Shark Project has said it has received reports of more sightings of basking sharks off the Irish coast than usual for this time of year, and is urging people who encounter them in the water to stay at least four metres away from them.

It says it has received a large number of sightings along the western seaboard, from Cork to Mayo, in particular off the Clare coast.

There have also been sightings off Co Waterford on the southeast coast.

While basking sharks are common in Irish waters each spring, the IPSB believes that the increased number of sightings this year could be attributed to the sunshine and calm seas combined with people being a little more attuned to nature in these unprecedented times.

Over the weekend a group of surfers said they say up to 30 basking sharks in a bay on the west Clare coast.

Tom Gillespie was among them and recorded footage of the sharks. The surfers all live within 2 kilometres from the bay.

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Mr Gillespie told RTÉ News that he and his friends were sitting on their boards looking at fins in the water when a number of basking sharks swam towards them.

"I remember the moment when I saw the fin [of one shark] coming, I just looked under the water, and the size of the thing, it was just absolutely huge... I've never seen anything like it in my life."

Mr Gillespie, who is a surfing instructor and a former lifeguard said they were careful not to make noise and not to follow or touch the sharks. 

"We were very conscious to remain still and to remain calm, we've heard that you don't want to startle them at all," Mr Gillespie said. 

Dr Simon Berrow, a founder member of the IBSP, has expressed some concern over the number of people swimming with these sharks and the potential disturbance. 

Dr Berrow is urging people not to enter into the water to swim with them, but to admire them from the shore.

However, if people do enter the water Dr Berrow said: "We would ask swimmers, boats and kayackers to respect social distancing so as not to disrupt the sharks natural behaviour."

"For basking sharks the recommended social distancing is 4m, not the 2m as required by our species," Dr Barrow added. 

Alexandra Mcinturf, a researcher for the IBSP, also asked that people in motorised boats that see sharks in the water put their engines in neutral and to stay at least 100 meters away. 

Basking Sharks are the second largest species of shark in the ocean. 

According to the IBSP they can grow up to 10-12m and weigh up to 3-4 tonnes. They occur in huge numbers in inshore Irish waters in the spring to feed on blooms of zooplankton and to engage in courtship.

People who see them are encouraged to report the sighting to the IBSP.