Sharks play an essential rol in the health of our oceans


Basking sharks in Europe: tagging projects continued this year – and you can help!

A basking Shark, picture by Alan James,

The fishery for basking sharks goes back as far as 1700s, both in Norwegian, Irish and Scottish waters. Catches declined rapidly, but the last UK fishing operation ceased only in the mid-1990, and the Norwegian fishery was legally stopped in 2006.
Since 2007, the EU has prohibited fishing for, retaining on board, transhipping or landing the Basking Shark by any vessel in EU waters or by an EU vessel anywhere. Norway has also banned directed fisheries for Basking Sharks and any live specimens taken as bycatch must be released. However dead and dying sharks caught as bycatch can still be landed and sold, severely limiting the effectiveness of the ban (CPOA Shark, 2009).
The shark is very occasionally seen in the North Sea, where a basking shark was washed ashore in 2004. It was probably killed by a blow from a ship propellor.

The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is the second largest fish in the world (the whale shark is the largest). An adult basking shark has usually a length between 8 and 12,5 metres. See our Species page for more info (

This shark has a worldwide distribution and can be observed alone or in shoals with other basking sharks. It appears in the northern part of the North Sea and in the Norwegian Sea from early spring to late summer, in the Mediterranean in early spring. In fall they can bee seen close to the coast before they leave and the feeding areas and spend their winter in deep waters. It was found that that basking sharks in the western Atlantic Ocean, which is characterized by dramatic seasonal fluctuations in oceanographic conditions, migrate well beyond their established range into tropical mesopelagic waters. In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, however, only occasional dives to depths  from 200 to 1000 meters have been reported in equivalent tagging studies. It is assumed that, in this area, the relatively stable environmental conditions mediated by the Gulf Stream may limit the extent to which basking sharks need to move during winter to find sufficient food.


This year, there is again a lot of European basking shark research going on.

In France, APECS, the French organization dedicated to the study and the conservation of Elasmobranchs, studies the sharks in Brittany. British basking shark hotspots are the English southwest coasts, the Isle of Man, the west coast of Scotland and the north of Ireland. There is a Shark Trust project, and the Scottish Natural Heritage has joined forces with the University of Exeter in an exciting new tagging project which will help to solve some of the mysteries about basking shark behaviour. In Ireland, the Irish Basking Shark Research project has tagged nearly 250 sharks since 2008, the largest shark tagging project worldwide. A five metre basking shark that spends its summers in Lough Foyle and near Malin Head has been detected off the western coast of Africa. The shark has been discovered near Senegal, over 3,000 miles away! This shows the importance of worldwide research and protective measures! In Norway, HAI Norge has set up a research project on the genetic diversity in basking sharks.

Have you seen a basking shark in Norway or the other regions? Report it!

Have you found a tag, or have you seen a basking shark during a dive, a snorkel or from a boat or the coast? Report your sighting, if possible with a picture of the dorsal fin to one of the websites below! 






You can watch a feeding basking shark in this BBC clip:

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