The second largest shark in existence today, growing to 45 feet, the basking shark is a member of the mackerel shark family and is basically harmless to humans.
A dark gray or slate-gray fish fading to a paler shade on its belly, the basking shark gets its name from its habit of swimming slowly at the surface. As a plankton feeder, it will not take bait, being too large for sportfishing anyway.
Long gill slits span the sides and nearly meet below, with long, closely set gill rakers that it uses to strain zooplankton. The rakers are shed during the winter, and the basking shark fasts on the bottom while it grows new ones.
Pelagic in cool, temperate waters nearly worldwide, its 3 year gestation period is the longest of any shark’s. Once extensively fished commercially and valued for its liver for oil, the basking shark may be a potential source of anticarcinoma drugs and is used in Chinese medicine.