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Pacific Basking Sharks Decline Dramatically

Eastern North Pacific basking sharks have been designated a species of concern by the National Ocean and Atmosphere Administration’s (NOAA) Fisheries Service. The reason stated for the designation is a dramatic decline in population, even with a decrease in fishing for the large sharks.

In their official press release, the Fisheries Service state, “We expect that by identifying it as a species of concern we will raise public awareness of the species status, generate interest in additional research to identify factors that may be inhibiting its recovery and, with states and other partners, restore this population before listing under the ESA becomes necessary. ”

In NOAA’s Basking Shark profile, the Fisheries Service states no large groups have been documented in California waters in the last 17 years, “Where schools in the hundreds and thousands used to occur off California, no more than 3 individual basking sharks have been observed at any one time since 1993″ (Phillips 1948, Squire 1967, 1990, McFarlane et al. 2009). The same document indicates the population is only slightly larger in Canada, “Only 12 sharks have been documented since 1996 (McFarlane et al. 2009).” Yet the official NOAA population estimate is 300-500.

The Pacific Wildlife Foundation’s population view seems to be more in line with the tiny number of documented sightings, “The minimum historical population was about 750 sharks compared to near zero now (COSEWIC 2007).”

Canada has listed the North Pacific Basking Shark as endangered, as well as the IUCN Red List. Pacific Wildlife Foundation also says the number of documented sightings in Canada is six, not twelve like the NOAA document states, “There are only six confirmed sightings on Canada’s Pacific coast since 1996. ” What exactly does it take for the North Pacific Basking Shark to be listed on the U.S. Endangered Species Act?

Basking shark’s reproduce infrequently, so once their numbers have been driven down to such a low point, recovery is difficult.  Basking sharks don’t reach sexual maturity until the age of 16-20, and the gestation period is 2-3 years.

The information in the NOAA profile and expanded in the Canadian one, appears to suggest the species is a prime candidate for protection by the  U.S. Endangered Species Act, and the designation as a “species of concern” should have probably been assigned decades ago.

Basking Sharks are a gentle giant. They pose no threat to humans and eat zookplankton.

Image Credit: Public Domain

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11:14AM PDT on Mar 12, 2012

Bad news. Proves we do not know it all and have a duty of care

9:57AM PDT on Sep 30, 2010

It´s a shame. I don´t like sharks but it´s there planet too. Stay off!

11:27PM PDT on Sep 16, 2010

Three or four Basking sharks swimming together on film takes my breath away. Imagine the time when there were groups of hundreds, even thousands... How amazing would that have been.

I'd love to swim with Basking sharks someday. My chances of being able to, though, look poorer and poorer. Grabbing these docile creatures up for fishing, there is nothing but dishonour in that.

12:55AM PDT on Sep 14, 2010

Many people say that sharks are beasts. In reality, the human absolute beast!

12:35PM PDT on Sep 13, 2010

"Species of concern"? Oh, for all love, just designate them endangered while there are still any left to designate at all.

2:23AM PDT on Sep 12, 2010

Oh, I had no idea these sharks ate only zooplankton, how cute! Poor many species are disappearing - we have to be so careful or so many treasures will be lost.

7:15PM PDT on Sep 11, 2010


6:54PM PDT on Sep 11, 2010

continued.... also I forgot to mention that it's really sad that there are many animals in danger of extiction but humans increasing !!! pathetic

6:51PM PDT on Sep 11, 2010

interesting ! thanks for posting Jake and please have a fantastic day my dear.

5:55PM PDT on Sep 11, 2010

The Fat Cat Gambling Whale might be the next endangered species if action is not taken soon.

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Blessings for both !!!!! beautiful


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