Today Basking Sharks are one of the most heavily protected sharks in UK and EU waters, but this wasn't always the case.

From 1946-1995 Basking Sharks were heavily fished in the Northeast Atlantic. Targeted for their liver oil and meat. Then for their large fins, which are prized in the shark fin trade.

Basking Shark fisheries displayed a typical ‘boom and bust’ pattern. Large volumes of mature Basking Sharks were initially caught. Followed by a rapid decline of landings. Until fisheries were no longer financially viable and collapsed. The last Basking Shark fishery in British waters closed in 1995. Leaving Basking Shark populations on the brink.

Basking Sharks are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Monitoring, management and further research is vital to ensure their survival. And this is why we created the Basking Shark Project.

UK and EU Protection:

In the UK Basking Sharks are protected under:

  • Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
  • Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000
  • Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985
  • Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004

These Acts make it illegal to intentionally kill, injure or harass Basking Sharks in British waters. Any person committing such an offence could face up to 6 months in prison and a large fine.

They’re also protected under:

  • Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) - In 2007 Basking Sharks became a Prohibited Species in the EU. EU commercial fishing vessels are prohibited from targeting, retaining, trans-shipping or landing them. And this also applies to third country vessels in EU waters.

  • UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) - In 1997 the Basking Shark was listed in the UK BAP - an inventory of the nation’s biodiversity. This identified the Basking Shark as being in urgent need of conservation management and laid out detailed plans for their protection.

  • Ireland’s Wildlife Act - In 2022, Basking Sharks became legally protected in Irish waters under Section 23 of Ireland’s Wildlife Act, making it an offence to hunt or injure them (without permission or licence), or to wilfully interfere with, or destroy, their breeding or resting places.


  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) - Basking Sharks are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (on the Global, European, and Mediterranean assessments). They face a very high risk of extinction in the wild. So, immediate monitoring and management is needed.

  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) - The Basking Shark is listed under Appendix II of the CITES. International trade is controlled to ensure it doesn't threaten the survival of the species.

  • Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) - Basking Sharks are listed in Appendices I and II of the CMS. Basking Sharks know no borders, so it's vital they're protected in all waters. Cooperation across countries is vital.

  • United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) - The Basking Shark is listed under Annex I – Highly Migratory Species – of the UNCLOS. Article 64 of UNCLOS directs signatory States to cooperate to ensure the conservation of this species. As well as encouraging optimal utilisation if they're caught.

Find Out How You Can Help Basking Sharks

Related Links:

 Find out more about our Basking Shark Project

About Basking Sharks

 Basking Shark Threats