How Big are Basking Sharks?
Jan 11 2023
The basking shark, Cetorhinus maximus, is the second largest shark in the world, and the largest found in temperate seas! So big that its common name in some languages is actually ‘giant shark’, but exactly how big is the basking shark?
The largest record for the basking shark is 12.27 metres, which is just over 40 feet long, almost the size of a London bus! Now you may be thinking, how have I never seen a bus sized shark swimming along our coastline? Basking sharks are elusive giants with mysterious lives, and while they aggregate in the sea of the Hebrides during the summer months we still have a lot to learn about what they do for the rest of the year. They are relatively unknown when it comes to shark species, but we have dedicated the last 10 years to learning more about these sharks and putting them on the map.
Which shark is the biggest?
The record holder for being the world’s biggest shark is the tropical whale shark, with the largest measurements for this fish being an impressive 18.8 metres, almost 62 feet long! Interestingly, both of these enormous fish are planktivores, feeding on a diet of only plankton. This is a feeding behaviour quite unique in sharks, and there are only three known planktivores out of over 500 species of shark.
How big are the basking sharks in the Hebrides?
Although 12 metres is the record for basking sharks, it is unusual to see individuals this size here in the Hebrides. Basking sharks have a long life history, with slow reproduction rates and slow rates to reach sexual maturity. The factors of basking sharks being slow growing mean the impacts of previous hunting for this species as recent as the 1990s could mean that the surviving basking shark population still has a way to grow.
When we encounter basking sharks during our wildlife tours we try to take accurate size measurements, as well as other sightings data to help us better understand the North East Atlantic population. Sharks which are on the larger side here typically measure in at 6-8 metres. With their towering dorsal fins and cavernous mouths they are certainly one of the most interesting looking shark species, and sharing the water with them is an unforgettable experience.
Over the years we have seen basking sharks of all sizes, from juvenile basking sharks with their comical upturned noses, to ginormous basking sharks – almost the size of the boat, with fins so big they have collapsed over.
If you think swimming with these gentle giants is something you would like to tick off your bucket list check out our different adventures to meet the UKs biggest fish!