Basking Shark

Cetorhinus maximus

  1. Wildlife
  2. Fish and sharks
  3. Basking Shark


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.

How to identify

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.

Where to find it

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


When to find it

  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September

How can people help

Basking Sharks are seriously threatened by overfishing - they were traditionally caught for their vast livers, but are now a target of the shark fin soup trade. It's thought that Basking Shark populations have decreased by 80 % since the 1950s. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. This work has recently had a massive boost with the passing of the Marine Bill, promising sustainable development of the UK's marine environment. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Basking Shark
Latin name
Cetorhinus maximus
Fish and sharks
Length: up to 12m Weight: 6 tonnes Average Lifespan: anything from 20-100 years
Conservation status
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.