Juvenile basking shark caught off Sicily, Mediterranean
This video was uploaded on the 20th March 2013 to youtube by sebyspicuglia
. It seems that a juvenile basking shark had been caught in nets by mediterranean fishermen in Sicily and had ended up at the fish market.
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Basking Sharks Snout - protrudes at the surface.[/caption]
It's very sad to see but it looks like it was bycatch rather than a targeted fishery. Interestingly from a biological perspective, the Italian/English translation goes from Elephant Shark (Squalo elefante) to Basking Shark. The English referring to way in which the sharks 'bask' at the surface when they are feeding. The Italian name perhaps referring to the shape of the sharks protruding nose, which a lot of the time breaks the surface of the water or even the colour and texture of the sharks skin. The video also shows the large livers on the fishmongers slab from around 1min50 mark. This is the reason they were hunted in Scotland as their livers are so big and produce a large amount of oil. Thankfully this practice ended in 1994.
The basking sharks in the Mediterranean seem to show a similar pattern of migration to our Scottish sharks, where they arrive in summer to feed and then disappear over winter. With our sharks heading towards south towards the canary islands in winter, could they be part of one large population and visit various seas or do they stick to the exact same migratory paths each year? If the latter were true then this confirms the requirement for international protection for these sharks as its simply not a case of one country protecting them. We need protection over all their migration - not just one area!!
Another interesting point is the size of the shark. We believe there are very little sightings of juvenile sharks in Scotland. Could it be the Mediterranean is a nursery area for Basking Sharks?
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Distributions of Basking Shark Sightings in the Mediterranean (Mancusi et al2005)[/caption]