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Rare basking shark sighting in the North Sea

11:17 05/11/2014

Staff from the Institute for Nature and Woodland Research out on the North Sea last week for a bird census spotted a basking shark near the Oosthinder sandbank, several kilometres off the coast of Bredene. “This is a rare sighting,” Jan Seys of the Flemish Maritime Institute told VRT. “In the last five years, basking sharks have only been sighted five times in that area.”

The shark was a female measuring four metres in length. The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is the second largest fish in the sea, after the whale shark, and can reach lengths of up to eight metres. Despite their size, they are not aggressive and feed on plankton, which they filter out of seawater.

The sharks “show up all over the world in polar or temperate climate and often travel great distances, but you don't often see them in the North Sea,” said Seys. “The basking shark has no teeth, so it’s completely harmless. Humans are more of a danger to this protected animal than the other way around.”

 

photo courtesy Greg Skomal/Wikimedia

Written by Alan Hope