Basking Shark Cetorhinus maximus

The Basking Shark is the second largest fish in our oceans – its relative the Whale Shark being the biggest. Despite their size, Basking Sharks actually feed on plankton which they filter out of the water, swimming slowly back and forth with their enormous mouths wide open. They are most commonly seen in the summer, when they gather in British waters. Try looking from cliffs or boats offshore in the south and west.


The large, black, triangular dorsal fin moves slowly through the water, with the tail tip or snout sometimes visible above the waves, too. The Basking Shark has a massive, grey body.


Length: up to 12m Weight: 6 tonnes Average Lifespan: anything from 20-100 years


Classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, listed under CITES Appendix II and classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.


Found all around our coasts, but most frequently seen around the south-west of England, Wales, Isle of Man and west coast of Scotland.

When to see

May – September


The Basking Shark may be huge but it disappears from the coast in winter, completely foxing scientists as to its whereabouts! Theories include everything from hibernating in deep water to shedding their gill rakes (which help them to feed), but satellite tracking shows that they migrate during all the seasons, so are always on the move.

Common name

Basking Shark

Species name

Cetorhinus maximus

When to see in Scotland

May – September

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