Basking Shark

Marine Creature:  Basking Shark

Kindly compiled by Dr. Mauvis Gore of Marine Conservation International

Basking-shark-feeding-at-waters-surfaceGeneral Description

Basking Sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) are the second largest fish in the sea.


Cool temperate waters globally

Lifespan: Unconfirmed

Size: 12m

Food: Zooplankton

Feeding & Hunting

They feed by swimming through swarms of zooplankton with their mouths open. How they find such tiny food is not known but we think that they use their very sensitive snouts to do this.


Interesting Facts

They have beautifully patterned skin and are born with very turned up snouts.


Gestation time is unknown as is the number of pups born in a litter, but it is guessed to be about six.


Being hit by boats and ships, being caught in nets and creel ropes are a problem but shark finning is a huge threat to them.

Basking-shark-feeding-2Conservation Status & International Protection

They are listed as Vulnerable globally but the NE Atlantic and the N Pacific populations are listed as Endangered. These sharks feed directly on primary food sources and are indicator species for the health of the oceans.

How can people help?

The more eyes assisting, the better for the basking shark. Photographs especially of both sides of the dorsal fin help us to identify individuals and help to assess the population numbers in different locations and seasons. Taking care out in boats as these sharks “bask” at the surface and are vulnerable to boat strikes. See our ADVICE page for Codes of Conduct.

Best places in the world to see these creatures:

Basking sharks are most easily seen off Great Britain and Ireland, on the coast or on the sea nearby off the west coast of Scotland, Isle of Man, Cornwall, Counties Kerry and Donegal. In Scotland, there are a number of eco-conscious marine-life operators on the Isle of Mull including Paul Gallagher and Silver Swift, and SeaLifeSurveys.

Scientist Profile:  Dr. Mauvis Gore

Basking-shark-feeding-mouth-detailOrganisation(s):  Marine Conservation International

Year(s) Founded:  2007

Funding bodies:  Save our Seas Foundation, U.K. Overseas Territories Environment Programme, WWF-Pakistan

Description/Background of work

Marine Conservation International (MCI) is a partnership formed by marine scientists to enable them to pursue projects with conservation objectives in the most effective way. Marine conservation is an increasingly important priority if we are to protect the planet’s marine environment and to manage the habitat. MCI is an implementing organisation needing financial support rather than offering it.

Importance of work

We have shown that basking sharks are not confined to shelf edge habitats and this is important in understanding the global population structure. Basking sharks not only undertake huge migrations but they also dive to almost 2km depths. We are now able to estimate the population for the west coast of Scotland and are encouraging groups elsewhere in Europe, North America and New Zealand to work on these incredible sharks.

Volunteer /Paid Work Opportunities

There are occasionally volunteer positions to help with both fieldwork and with photo-ID cataloguing.

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