(photo by Chris Gotschalk)

Basking Shark; Cetorhinus maximus


The world’s second largest fish is the basking shark. The basking shark was historically abundant along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North-America, until a Canadian government eradication program was set in place. The abundant shark population in the 1940s-1950s became an obstacle to the ever-growing commercial fishing industry. There were many encounters of basking sharks with boats and gillnets which caused extensive damage and costs to the fishing industry.  The 1955-1969 eradication program was widely successful at reducing the basking shark population. Unfortunately, the species never recovered from the population decline, and have been sighted very few times since 1994. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) deemed the species ‘endangered’ in 2007, followed soon after by their inclusion on the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). 

The basking shark is a filter feeder, and uses ‘gill rakers’ to catch copepods, fish eggs and crustaceans. Individuals can reach lengths up to 10 metres. 

Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada

(Photo of basking shark near Percé, Quebec. Photo courtesy of André and Joel Berthelot.)

It’s estimated that there are between 300 and 550 of the sharks living and feeding between Mexico and B.C. and even though there have been only two to three sightings in B.C. each year for the past decade, those sightings have not decreased.

“I would be happier if they were going up,” she said. “It makes me happy that they are not going down. Static is at least stable.” Jackie King via CBC