Basking

Basking Shark (flickr/yohancha)

It may be hard to believe, but scientists are asking for the public's help in finding one of the largest fish in the ocean.

The basking sharks have been in sharp decline over the past decades and researchers are hoping that the general public can assist in reporting any sightings to scientists who are interested in electronically tagging and then tracking these animals to learn more about their behavior and distribution.

The basking sharks, who are most commonly seen along the U.S. and Canadian Pacific Coast, were recently added to a list of Species of Concern, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Fisheries Service.  This category indicates concerns scientists have about the population's future viability.

It is estimated that the amount of basking sharks once numbered in the thousands off the coasts of the U.S. and Canada, before numbers plummeted in the mid 1900's due to human exploitation.

Today, these wide-mouthed sharks are rarely seen.

The best chance for seeing one of these frightening looking sharks is off the coast of Central California and Southern Canada.  Similar to the larger whale sharks, basking sharks are filter feeders foraging on plankton at the base of the food chain.  This is good news for divers, surfers, or swimmers as they have no interest in humans.

If you see a basking shark while you are on the water and can call from your vessel, call:  (760) 408-7726 or (619) 743-9004.  If you wish to report a sighting after you have returned to land, you can provide the date, time and location of the sighting at either: (858) 334-2884 (Southern California) or (831) 771-4438 (Central California, North of Morro Bay). You can also email baskingshark@mlml.calstate.edu