Today is World Ocean Day, a day to celebrate and protect the amazing diversity of life in the oceans. One of the most fascinating and endangered creatures that live in the oceans is the basking shark, or requin pèlerin in French. This is the second largest fish in the world, after the whale shark, and can reach up to 12 meters in length and weigh up to 7 tons. Despite its huge size, the basking shark is harmless to humans, as it feeds mainly on plankton, algae, and small animals that it filters through its enormous mouth.
The basking shark is found in all temperate seas of the world, but its population is estimated to be only around 8,000 individuals. It is considered endangered by the IUCN, as it faces threats from overfishing, bycatch, habitat degradation, and climate change. The basking shark is also poorly understood, as its movements, migrations, and reproduction are still largely unknown. Some researchers are trying to learn more about this species by using photo-identification and tagging techniques, which rely on the distinctive shape and markings of the dorsal fin of each individual.
The basking shark is a magnificent and mysterious animal that deserves our respect and protection. On this World Ocean Day, let us appreciate the beauty and diversity of the ocean life, and pledge to take action to preserve it for future generations. You can watch a video of a basking shark feeding in the Atlantic Ocean tank at the National Marine Aquarium in the UK here. Happy World Ocean Day!