A gentle giant
The basking shark is the second largest fish alive today, second only to the mammoth whale shark. It may be humongous but this particular fish is considered a gentle giant.
How big can it get?
The largest confirmed basking shark ever caught was just over 12 metres (40 feet) in length. This goliath was recorded way back in 1851. Today it reaches an average length of 6-8 metres. It’s no lightweight either, tipping the scales somewhere in the region of 19 tons.
What does it eat?
It loves nothing more than a supersize portion of plankton, processing some 1.5 million litres of water per hour, from which it filters plankton using 5,000 gill rakes.
How does it hunt?
This shark spends virtually all day with its metre-wide mouth almost perpetually open following and hovering up plankton at a leisurely pace.
How dangerous is it?
Despite its size and appearance, the basking shark is traditionally a mellow and unaggressive species. This gentle giant is more interested in its beloved plankton than humans. Still, any creature the size of a train carriage is best left in peace.
How many are left?
This titanic shark has been overfished and is now considered vulnerable. Its fin is particularly sought after being used in soup, eaten as a delicacy, and used as a medicine in the Far East. Its flesh and liver oil are also valued commodities.
The basking shark is probably the world’s most travelled shark. Satellite tagging has confirmed that species from the northeast coast of the U.S.A. travel phenomenal distances (thousands of miles) as they migrate to the warmer Brazilian coastal waters during the winter months.