With a generous grant from the World Wildlife Fund, Atrenet and members of
the general public, the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation has sponsored a
sightings and reporting network that record and reports the times and
observed locations of Basking Sharks and basking shark congregations
within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary; Monterey Bay, Big Sur
and San Mateo coasts. The information is utilized for conservation,
research and educational purposes. The PSRF has been advocating on behalf
of basking shark conservation and protected status since 1990.
Any and all mariners, researchers and sportsman are being urged to record
and report the locations of basking sharks to the office of the Pelagic
Shark Research Foundation at (831)600-5214. Based in Santa Cruz
California. The PSRF has tagged a record 83 basking sharks within the
Monterey Bay since late 1989. Basking sharks were once heavily fished via
harpoon until the late 50's when the sharks became increasingly rare and
in fact they became commercially extinct.
credit: Alessandro De Maddalena/Pelagic Shark Research Foundation
Essentially nothing is known of this huge plankton filtering shark's
movements or range and it is critical to management and conservation
efforts that these mysteries be unlocked. Basking sharks continue to be
fished as a target of opportunity and the price and demand for 'fins' has
dramatically increased world wide. It is crucial that our researchers and
naturalists are able to locate and monitor periodic congregations of
basking sharks before these aggregations are disrupted by human impacts.
Public assistance is vital to this effort and we thank you in advance for
your support and participation.
Basking sharks, (Cetorhinus maximus) are the worlds second largest known
shark. They can commonly reach lengths of over 30' ft in length and can
weigh several thousand pounds. Basking sharks are a mottled grayish brown
and are most often observed while cruising slowly on the surface. While
basking sharks are typically indifferent to humans they should not be
closely approached or disturbed.
Present population levels are unknown and there is an established concern
that basking shark populations are in steep decline and easily taken as
targets of opportunity by opportunistic poachers. Although the basking
shark fishery was declared officially closed in year 2000, they are not a
protected species with a high premium price on sharkfin market; wherein
single dorsal fins can bring in $2500.00 price tag profits. Basking shark
fins are among the highest value and prestige.
The purpose of the sightings network is to assist both researchers and
wildlife agencies to understand behaviors, evaluate population levels and
enact measures to protect them from future over-exploitation throughout
their range. Both photo Id and tiny tissue biopsy samples are collected
for genetic information that will be share with U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service, National Forensics Laboratory and others that PSRF has been collaborating
with over the years.