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Basking Shark Photo-Identification

Basking Shark Fin © Colin Speedie.The Basking Shark project utilises the powerful, non-invasive field technique of photo-ID to study live sharks in their natural environment. This allows researchers to better understand life histories and movement, which is especially important for a vulnerable and highly migratory species like the Basking Shark.

Very little is known about the life of the Basking Shark, partly because of the difficulty in conducting field research into an animal which spends most of its life deep underwater, out of sight. However during spring and summer they may be seen feeding on plankton at the sea surface, and this gives researchers and members of the public an opportunity to take photographs of the sharks, many of which display significant and recognisable identification markings. These are either in the form of natural markings (pigmentation) or acquired markings (scars, injuries), which are unique to individual animals. These markings are usually seen on the dorsal fin of the animal, but other areas such as the caudal (tail) fin may also show variable markings.

The Shark Trust has teamed up with a number of research groups using photo-ID, and a ‘community’ database has been created to efficiently store photo-ID images from associated projects, including; the Shark Trust, Marine Conservation International, Irish Basking Shark Study Group and Manx Basking Shark Watch. With good quality photographs, some individual sharks will be recognised on re-sighting and matched on this database this can help to map individual migration routes and attempt to estimate population size.

This project aims to promote conservation research by sharing information. By submitting your photographs of Basking Sharks, researchers hope to match your images with their research. This will reveal the, as yet poorly known, distribution and migration routes of this species. Helping with this project will aid conservation and management strategies by providing additional data.

So next time you head to the coast, grab your camera and keep your eyes peeled for the fins of Basking Sharks breaking the sea surface. Then submit your photographs and sighting details by completing our online form.

➤ Find out how to take the perfect photo-ID shot.

View the community photo-ID database

CAUTION: Remember to follow the Code of Conduct when near Basking Sharks.