A 20-foot-long (6 meter) basking shark has been the unfortunate catch of the day for fishermen off the coast of Australia. Since they are rarely seen, this specimen caught in Portland was donated to scientists to study at Museum Victoria.
The basking shark is the second-largest shark after the whale shark. They can grow to be as large as 39 feet long (12 meters long). This particular shark weighed 7,716 pounds (3,500 kilograms).
Basking sharks are highly desired by illegal poachers for their fins, oil and for food. As such, the International Union for Conservation of Nature have classed the basking shark as “vulnerable."
A Museum Victoria spokesperson wrote on Facebook that the basking shark catch had “caused a great deal of excitement.”
“It provides a rare opportunity to conduct scientific research into this species,” the spokesperson added. “This will help Museum Victoria with conservation efforts and biological research.”
The male shark was dead at the time of the catch, when it was pulled onto the fishing trawler. Instead of selling the fish, the onboard crew realized the significance of their find and contacted the museum.
Museum Victoria’s senior curator of ichthyology Dr. Martin Gomon told the Independent: “These rare encounters can provide many of the missing pieces of knowledge that help broader conservation and biological research."
Tissue samples and the contents of its stomach were taken from the shark for analysis to discern more about its living and feeding habits.
— Fishes of Australia (@FishesAustralia) June 23, 2015
Only three basking sharks have been brought to Museum Victoria in over 160 years of recording the species, none of which have been as complete as this one.
[H/T: National Geographic]