Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus)
This gentle giant is the largest fish to be found in the coastal waters of the British Isles.
Measuring anything up to 12 metres long, and weighing up to 7 tonnes, it feeds on animal plankton, filtering 1,000 to 2,000 cubic metres of seawater per hour to extract its tiny prey.
During the summer months, it favours Cornish, Devon, Manx, Irish and Scottish waters as its regular feeding grounds. The basking shark is an internationally recognised endangered species with legal protection.
Its main attraction now lies in its highly valued enormous fins, which are a delicacy in the Far East, and hunting remains the single biggest threat to its future.
Little is known about the basking shark, which makes effective conservation very difficult. Without accurate population numbers it is difficult to tell whether populations are in recovery or decline. Without a clear idea about their most favoured feeding sites, it is difficult to know what conservation strategies will be the most effective, or which sites need further protection.
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