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Basking Shark Project
The Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is one of the few species that has emerged from being an important commercially targeted fish, to becoming a charismatic wildlife ambassador. Once heavily targeted for their liver oil, meat and fins, the last UK fishing operation ceased only in the mid-1990s and in 1998 this species received protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). Now protected in all four Devolved Administrations, this species cannot be targeted, retained or disturbed in British waters. Every year, holidaymakers flock to the coastline in the hope of seeing these enigmatic sharks for themselves.
Reaching lengths of up to 12m, Basking Sharks are the largest fish in British waters and the second largest in the world after the Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus). One of only three plankton-feeding shark species, these gentle giants re-appear in our coastal waters each spring and summer.
Despite their size, surprisingly little is known about the life history of Basking Sharks, partly because of the difficulty of conducting field research on an animal which spends most of its life out of sight, deep underwater. However, from May until late October along the west coast of the UK, Basking Sharks can be seen feeding on plankton blooms at the sea surface - this provides researchers and scientists with a fantastic opportunity to learn more about these evasive creatures.
A number of broad geographical regions have gained prominence as Basking Shark hotspots - including England's southwest, the Isle of Man, the west coast of Scotland and the north of Ireland. So if you are visiting any of these areas we recommend keeping an extra look out. You can find out all about the latest shark sightings from these areas by visiting the Shark Trust's Basking Shark Blog.
The Basking Shark Project is a great way for shark enthusiasts of all ages to get involved with Basking Shark conservation. The Shark Trust runs both a Sightings Database and a Photo-ID Database which store valuable information about this charismatic species. To take part, all you have to do is keep an eye out when you next visit the coast during summer months and if you are lucky enough to see a Basking Shark, submit your sightings and photographs to us.