Mysterious giant shark, followed by satellites, rare sightings

A basking shark seen off the west coast of Scotland.


A basking shark is the huge silhouette, rarely seen in the oceans worldwide, is a major attraction for scientists who are mapping are often mysterious migrations.

The world’s second largest fish, growing to more than 35 metres, the basking shark or Cetorhinus maximus, is hunted voraciously for its huge fin.

The global populations of basking sharks decreased in the 20th century and the species has struggled to recover due to the slow reproduction rates.

The zooplankton-eating sharks do not hibernate and are spotted more frequently during the summer months; in winter, they tend to move to deeper depths, even at 3000 feet below the surface of the ocean.

“It is a shark who remains very mysterious,” Alexandra Rohr of the research group APECS, which is based in France, dedicated to the study of sharks, skates and rays, told Channel News Asia.

Despite their size and threatening appearance, basking sharks are not aggressive and are harmless to humans.

Basking sharks are increasingly threatened.



APECS makes use of new tracking technology to monitor the sharks’ migratory range, together with the crowd-sourced information from divers, sailors and other members of the public.

According to Channel News Asia, Alain Quemere sighted a basking shark during a fishing trip in the Glenan archipelago in the south coast of Brittany in France, and reported data to APECS, allowing a research team to find the shark, and fit it with a satellite tracker.

“I just saw the tip of its fin,” said Quemere, still fascinated by the memory of his five-hour encounter. “One moment it grazed the front of the boat, which made me laugh because my boat is only five and a half feet and the shark was eight.”

The organization tagged four sharks so far this year.

“You have the impression of seeing a wise old grandpa, he is beautiful,” said Frederic Bassemayousse, a diver and a photographer who has spotted the sharks three times.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature now listed as “vulnerable” on the world and “endangered” in the North Pacific and the Northeastern Atlantic ocean.

In a study 2013, scientists estimated that humans kill about 100 million sharks per year.

Christopher Carbone is a reporter and news editor covering science and technology for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @christocarbone.

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