Over here in the UK shark fans are looking forward to the arrival in our waters of the second largest fish in the sea, the Basking Shark.
Surprisingly little is known about this fish – which can reach ten meters in length – which heads up the eastern Atlantic into UK waters and then heads north, following the plankton blooms. Quite a number find their way into the Irish Sea and then up and around the Hebrides off Scotland’s western coast. That’s where I met these three fish, each around five to six meters in length.
As you can see, when not feeding they more closely resemble a typical shark shape. You can also see how their dorsal (and often caudal) fins break the surface, which makes them easier to spot.
Once the sharks find a patch of plankton, they tend to stay in the area to feed, using their gill rakers to filter out the nutritious copepods. Happily, they are easy to approach without disturbing them, as long as you take care and allow them to swim towards you. There are rules that must be followed of course. They take very little notice of people in the water, perhaps thinking we are seals? Of which there are many.
Baskers are now protected after centuries of persecution, though they are still at risk from accidentally being caught by fishing vessels and boat strikes. They used to be caught for the oils in their oversize livers and not for eating.