How to catch a basking shark

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7dSItrbH0k&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

Rare film footage of a basking shark being caught by Norwegian fishermen in the 1970s (Warning – it gets a little bit bloody).

As the film shows, catching a basking shark is not really something to be proud of (especially if you have a harpoon gun to hand). It’s easy: just sneak up behind one as it slowly cruises along the surface…

Target fisheries in Norway, Ireland, Scotland and elsewhere used to catch basking sharks for their enormous livers (making up one third of their body) which are loaded with vitamin A. And these gentle giants didn’t do at all well when they were hunted by humans – their numbers swiftly declined and are recovering very slowly (they are now listed as Vulnerable to extinction).

Since the invention of factory-made vit A, basking shark fisheries dwindled and closed but these mighty beasts are still occasionally snagged as bycatch and kept for their huge fins. A single tail fin sells for around US$60,000 in Asia, not to make soup (that would be a whole lot of soup – apparently it doesn’t taste so good), but as a pinup trophy for shark fin soup connoisseurs.

(Stats from Shark product trade in Hong Kong and Mainland China, TRAFFIC East Asia report 2004. Read the full report here)

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