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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Creature Feature: Basking Shark

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In this series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.

This month our Creature Feature is from guest writer – Yolanda Evans. 17-year old Yolanda has been passionate about sharks all her life. And this month she explores the world of the Basking Shark.

Slowly gliding through the water is the 12 metre Basking Shark. The second largest shark in the world, but also the biggest in British waters, these sharks are immediately identifiable from their large agape mouths and their brown-grey colouration. In fact, they are so big that their species name ‘maximus’ means great, for their great size.

Basking Sharks’ capacious mouths can be up to 90cm wide but despite their size, they eat some of the smallest creatures, zooplankton. Their food is separated from the water by their gill rakers, these are long keratinous bristle structures that are in each gill. Even though they eat zooplankton, Basking Sharks still have teeth. There can be up to 200 in both their upper and lower jaws. However, unlike their cousins the infamous White shark, their teeth are only 5mm long!

Very little is known about Basking Shark pups. In fact, only one female has ever been recorded carrying an embryo! It is widely believed that Basking Sharks are ovoviviparous, meaning that eggs inside the female hatch before she gives birth. Basking Shark pups are born with almost a hooked snout. This hooked snout is thought to help the pup to feed while still in the mother; the pup will rapidly outgrow this hooked snout after about a year.

They swim close to the surface of the water causing their dorsal fin to break the top. Basking Sharks can often congregate in shivers (a group of sharks) of over 100 sharks. They display a number of courtship behaviours including snout-to-tail lines, parallel swimming, and even breaching, this is when the shark jumps out of the water!

Their common name also comes from where they swim, as it is thought these mighty sharks like to bask in the warmth of the sun. In fact, like many sharks and ourselves, Basking Sharks can actually get a tan from the sun! Their tan makes them go a darker brown.

They have a global distribution and are a common visitor to British waters! Basking Sharks are a migratory species. They can be found in the UK from May to October on the west coast of the UK and then undergo trans-Atlantic migrations along the continental shelf following the zooplankton. If you do see a Basking Shark in the wild always remember the Basking shark code of conduct.

The Basking shark is currently recognised as endangered and is on the IUCN red list. It was until 1994 that Basking sharks were hunted for their liver oil in the UK. The oil was used for streetlamps and cosmetics. Shark liver oil is made of a substance called squalene which is still used today in many products like sun creams and makeup.

REPORTING YOUR SIGHTINGS – You can report your sightings of Basking Shark wherever you are in the world, to our Basking Shark Project!

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cetorhinus maximus

FAMILY:  Cetorhinidae

MAXIMUM SIZE: 12m

DIET: Zooplankton

DISTRIBUTION: Worldwide

HABITAT: Coastal and Pelagic waters

CONSERVATION STATUS:


Banner Image – © Martin Prochazkacz via Shutterstock

In-Text Images – © Frogfish Photography


For more amazing facts about sharks and what you can do to help the Shark Trust protect them visit the Shark Trust website by clicking here.

The Shark Trust is the leading UK-based shark conservation charity. The team works globally to safeguard the future of sharks, and their close cousins, the skates and rays. Engaging with a global network of scientists, policymakers, conservation professionals, businesses and supporters, to further shark conservation. Established in 1997 to provide a voice for UK sharks, the Shark Trust has an ever-growing number of passionate supporters. And together we're creating positive change for sharks around the world. Want to join us and help protect sharks around the world? Click here! www.sharktrust.org

Marine Life & Conservation

Book Review: The Sea Lions of Los Islotes

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Review of The Sea Lions of Los Islotes – The Jewel of Espiritu Santo Island

Having dived with and filmed these amazing Sea Lions myself many years ago I was delighted to see this new book by Luke Inman. It brought back memories of the most friendly and playful animals in our marine world. Their exuberance and desire for play seems unmatched anywhere else. Luke’s book is a true celebration of the Sea Lion.

The book is well written but not overly heavy on the text. Instead there are short comprehensive paragraphs on their behaviour and lifestyle. This is all supported by plenty of images reflecting Luke’s experiences and relationship with these gregarious animals. It is not often you feel you are watching an animal smile but these do. Constantly. It is with these images Luke shares his love and enthusiasm for the Sea Lions.

In the book Luke mentions the modern day issues faced by the Sea Lions in reference to Climate change, over fishing and Ghost fishing. These are serious factors in the life of any marine animals and must not be ignored or brushed over.

Luke also briefly mentions Sea Lions in captivity for the amusement of human beings. He rightly points out that the animals suffer bad health and die prematurely compared to those in the wild. I would like to add that a Sea Lion in a tank or marine park, performing tricks, is not a Sea Lion at all. It is a low base form of its natural self and should never be captive and imprisoned in this way.

It’s a good book and well worth looking up. Especially as it is getting near Christmas.

About the author

Luke Inman is an award-winning scuba Instructor Trainer, natural history filmmaker, photographer, writer and explorer. His work includes the BBC’s Planet Earth 3, Netflix’s Our Planet and advertising campaigns. Luke is the Owner and Operator of The Dive Gurus — the only PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Centre in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

The book

Release date 25 October 2022 | RRP £25 | Paperback | ISBN 978-1-909455-49-8 | 136 pages | 246 x 189 mm

Available now from Divedup.com, online and from retailers.

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Marine Life & Conservation

New feature film tackles Western trade in toxic sharks (Watch Trailer)

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“Sharks: In Deep Water is a film to change things,” explains Producer Matt Brierley. The film’s global premiere is 8th Nov 2022 and tickets can be obtained through www.sharksindeepwater.com.

Sharks matter. Without the sea’s top predators ocean ecosystems collapse. We are perilously close to creating a tipping point beneath the waves – in many places ocean systems have already collapsed, taking with them people’s livelihoods and their primary source of protein.

This is a topic close to many people’s hearts – but it is also an issue that conjures images of shark finning and Eastern markets. Sharks: In Deep Water tells a new story.

Laws to protect sharks from finning at sea have tragically backfired. Today sharks must have their fins removed on land. That has sparked a global trade in shark meat. As top of the food chain, sharks bioaccumulate human toxicants in concentrations harmful to their health – and ours if we eat them.

Undercover investigation by Sharks: In Deep Water found sharks in Western ports and on menus in high-end UK restaurants. The film conducted DNA analysis of battered fish sold in UK fish and chip shops. The results proved conclusively that Endangered shark is sold under confusing names. The results claimed headlines across the UK.

“Shark livers are also harvested – typically from deep water sharks science knows very little about. Again these are Western market forces not Eastern,” Matt said. “For too long we’ve told shark conservation as a simple story. Sharks are finned at sea by Eastern countries. But the story has moved on and that old narrative is excusing the Western nations who are fishing the shark and selling it – typically – through the Port of Vigo, Spain. The UK and EU are hugely complicit in the greatest underwater extinction event of our time.”

Sharks: In Deep Water is a film that has been designed to educate, inspire and – ultimately – to make a difference. It is uplifting and joyful at times, sad at others, but crucially it is hopeful and an authentic telling of the issues facing sharks present day.

Join Matt, Louise and Samantha and their team as they journey from Morocco to Continental Europe and on into the UK, documenting a trade in sharks closer to home than you ever imagined possible – and finding ways to spark positive change.

Producer Matt Brierley has worked across a suite of Natural History programming including Planet Earth II, Blue Planet II and The Earthshot Prize: Repairing Our Planet.

To watch the film’s trailer, get tickets to the premiere or learn more about the film visit www.sharksindeepwater.com. Details of future screenings will also be announced there.

The film team would like to thank Primordial Radio, Bristol Green Capital, Greenpeace, Exeter University, Manchester University, The Daily Mirror, the MCSUK and those who generously supported and publicised their crowdfunding campaigns including Scubaverse.

Producer Matt Brierley is an award-winning Natural History filmmaker who has worked on programmes including Emmy-winning The Serengeti Rules, Attenborough’s Blue Planet II, Planet Earth II and Wild Isles, and Prince Williams’ The Earthshot Prize: Repairing Our Planet. He’s especially passionate about birds, elephants, dinosaurs and, of course, sharks. 

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