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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Basking Shark Cetorhinus maximus

The basking shark is the world’s second-largest fish. In summer, it swims open-mouthed at the surface, filtering out plankton. Every hour, the basking shark passes up to 395,000 gallons (1.5 million liters) of seawater through the huge gills that almost encircle its head. Its liver runs the length of the abdominal cavity and is filled with oil to aid buoyancy.

Threats to Basking Sharks

Basking sharks are caught in target fisheries around the world for their oil, meat and fins. They are also caught as bycatch in other fisheries. The IUCN Red List status in the Northeast Atlantic is “Endangered” and in the Mediterranean listed as “Vulnerable.” Basking sharks are presently one of the most widely protected species of shark.

What Oceana Does to Protect Basking Sharks

Oceana is working internationally to protect and restore shark populations. Through policy, science, legal and communications work, Oceana is pushing for true shark finning bans, species-specific shark management and reduced shark bycatch.

Basking Sharkzoom image
  • Order Lamniformes
  • Length 20–36 ft (6–11 m)
  • Weight Up to 7.7 tons (7 metric tons)
  • Depth 0–6,500 ft (0–2,000 m)
  • Distribution Cold- to warm-temperate coastal waters worldwide
Basking Shark habitat mapzoom image