A fishing trawler in Australia has accidentally netted a giant basking shark — a species thought to be extremely rare. According to CNN, the shark was caught off the city of Portland in Southwestern Australia. The shark was later positively identified to be a “basking shark.” The last known sighting of a basking shark was nearly 80 years ago, back in the 1930s, ABC News Australia confirms. Back then, a specimen was captured at Lakes Entrance in the state of Victoria. In fact, this is only the third instance of a basking shark being seen in the region in 160 years!
At over 6.3 meters long and weighing nearly 2 tonnes, this was a medium-sized specimen. Basking Sharks are the world’s second largest fish species after the whale shark and can grow upto 12 meters in length. Contrary to its menacing looks, the basking shark is known to be a gentle, slow moving shark and is known to show some level of tolerance towards humans. The shark, unlike most other species of sharks, is not a vicious hunter and is known to almost exclusively feed on plankton.
Meanwhile, scientists and researchers are excited to have gained access to a rare animal. Several researchers from the Museum Victoria have traveled to Portland in order to take measurements and study the basking shark in detail. They are also planning to build a full-scale exhibition model of the shark. Martin Gamon, Museum Victoria’s senior curator of ichthyology, says as follows.
“These rare encounters can provide many of the missing pieces of knowledge that help broader conservation and biological research.”
According to Museum Victoria’s senior collections manager, Dianne Bray, the basking shark is not known to inhabit the waters of the Australian coast and it is unusual for the animal to be found here. She added that the netted specimen happened to be a big male. She added that the skin of the shark would be taken for DNA testing. They are also preserving some muscle tissue from it for a test known as “stable isotope analysis.”
“We’ll take skin samples for DNA work, and also some muscle tissue for stable isotope analysis, so that people can look at studies of what these things are actually eating.”
While the basking shark is a protected species in many waters under several international laws, the species were hunted to near extinction in several areas, mainly owing to the multi-million dollar shark fin trade.
The news of this basking shark comes just a few months after the Inquisitr had reported about the capture of a rare frilled shark — again, off the Australian coast.
[Image via ABC News Australia]