Basking shark’s Pacific odyssey tracked for first time

For the first time scientists have tracked a basking shark migrating across the Pacific Ocean. Uncovering the wandering habits of the world’s second biggest fish means conservationists face an even greater challenge to protect them than previously thought.

These days, there aren’t many basking sharks cruising along the Pacific coast of North America. There used to be thousands of them but these giant fish had the habit of getting tangled up in fishing gear so a basking shark eradication campaign was rolled out. They also get hit by ships and are killed for the shark fin trade. Now experts think there could be only around 300 Pacific basking sharks left.

Two were spotted off California last June – researchers from the National Marine Fisheries Service in La Jolla popped on a couple of satellite tags. One shark lost its tag after a few days; the other merrily swam off westwards, ending up 8 months later not far from Hawaii. It’s the first time a basking shark has been followed over a long distance in the Pacific (they’ve been tagged before migrating around the Atlantic).

The Pacific baskers were spotted with the help of local divers and sailors and the science team are hoping members of the public will help them track down more this year . They have two new satellite tags ready to be deployed later in the spring when basking sharks are more common.

So if you spot what you think might be a basking shark while you’re out and about on the Pacific this spring then get in touch!

Read more at UT San Diego.

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