Sightings of basking sharks: sailors asked to help monitor these magnificent fish

Sailors sailing in UK waters this summer are urged to report any sightings of a basking shark to help researchers

Sailors are encouraged to report any basking shark sightings to the Shark Trust this summer.

Between May and October, these endangered fish return to British waters to feed on plankton.

Monitoring, managing and continuing to research the basking shark population is essential to ensure their survival.

Currently, basking sharks are one of the most protected species in UK and European waters and are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Intense fishing for their liver oil. meat and large fins between 1946 and 1995 caused the collapse of the basking shark population in the northeast Atlantic.

It is illegal to harass or disturb basking sharks in UK waters. Credit: Nick Robertson-Brown/The Shark Trust

Although no longer targeted, these fish are still accidentally caught or die after becoming entangled in lost fishing gear.

Basking sharks grow slowly and take time to mature, so they produce few young, which makes them vulnerable. it takes a long time for populations to recover.

Shark Trust chief executive Paul Cox said that while focused and well-funded scientific research is needed to fully understand the status and potential recovery of basking sharks, everyone can play their part in reporting sightings.

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“Each sighting of a boat user, added to our database, provides a piece of evidence that can help scientists draw conclusions. We are truly grateful to all of our citizen scientists for the role they play in shark conservation and research,” he said.

Basking sharks are extremely vulnerable to disturbance and harassment and water users should always adhere to the Basking Shark Code of Conduct.

Basking sharks are heavily protected in UK and European waters.  Credit: Nick Robertson-Brown/The Shark Trust

Basking sharks are heavily protected in UK and European waters. Credit: Nick Robertson-Brown/The Shark Trust

It is also illegal to intentionally disturb or harass them in UK waters.

Sightings of basking sharks can be logged here.

If you witness a basking shark being disturbed or harassed, please report it immediately to the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

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