Basking Shark Washes Up Dead In Rhode Island

An enormous 28-foot-long basking shark washed up dead on a beach in Rhode Island over the weekend. It’s not currently known what caused the shark’s death.

Basking sharks, the second largest fishes in the world, are currently listed as “threatened” on the endangered species list. The huge and intelligent animals can grow to be more than 40 feet long, though most adults now are typically about 20-25 feet long. As a result of more than a century of large-scale fishing most animals now do not live long enough to grow to their maximum sizes.

Image Credit: Basking Shark via Wikimedia Commons
Image Credit: Basking Shark via Wikimedia Commons

The shark was found by “a homeowner in the Misquamicut (mis-KWA’-mih-cut) beach area of Westerly and reported to police on Sunday morning,” according to the Huffington Post. A necropsy will be preformed on the shark by biologists from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in order to determine the cause of death.

Basking sharks primarily feed on plankton, just like whale sharks and megamouths do. They live all over the temperate world, and are migratory. Though they can grow to be very large, they’re generally harmless to people, and even serve as tourist attractions in some regions. Because of overfishing in the past hundred or so years, they are now much less common than they once were, and aren’t observed to grow to the same sizes that they once did.

Image Credit: Basking Shark Feeding via Wikimedia Commons
Image Credit: Basking Shark Feeding via Wikimedia Commons

Some more information on that is below:

“Historically, the basking shark has been a staple of fisheries because of its slow swimming speed, unaggressive nature and previously abundant numbers. Commercially, it was put to many uses: the flesh for food and fishmeal, the hide for leather, and its large liver (which has a high squalene content) for oil. It is currently fished mainly for its fins (for shark fin soup). Parts (such as cartilage) are also used in traditional Chinese medicine and as an aphrodisiac in Japan, further adding to demand.”

“As a result of rapidly declining numbers, the basking shark has been protected in some territorial waters and trade in its products is restricted in many countries under CITES. It is fully protected in the UK, Malta, Florida and USA Gulf, and since 2008, it is subject to a target fishing and landed bycatch ban within EU waters. Targeted fishing for basking sharks is also illegal in New Zealand but bycatch may be landed. As of March 2010, it has also been listed under Annex I of the CMS Migratory Sharks Memorandum of Understanding.”

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