Warning to sea users to stop harassing basking sharks

8 June 2016, 13:18

Cornwall Wildlife Trust are calling on people to stay away from basking sharks after a number of them have been spotted along our coastline.

Basking sharks can grow up to 11metres long and can weigh up to 7 tonnes, and are the UK's biggest fish. 

Last month 5 were spotted off Porthcurno beach, and others have been seen around the Cornish coast in recent weeks. 

They're usually seen around Cornwalls coast in the spring and summer when they're feeding close to the surface.

Now the Cornwall Wildlife Trust say they've had reports of people harassing or following the basking sharks.

Marine Conservation officer Abby Crosby says "Much of our marine life is protected by law, so it is not just an issue that we cant to protect these animals, but we have to. 

" It is against the law to intentionally disturb or harass basking sharks or dolphins in our Cornish seas, and it is an issue thats ever growing in Cornwall with the popularity of people using our waters, so it's so important that we enjoy it in a way that doesn't disturb the superb wildlife that lives there".

Some advice for sea users, which can also be found in their Code of Conduct.

Advice when encountering Basking Sharks



Actions that scare, startle or panic: 

  • Getting too close 
  • Sudden movements 
  • Surrounding or crowding them  
How to tell you've been spotted:
  • A basking shark feeding at the surface suddenly dives 
  • Sudden tail movements and a rapid change of direction away from a boat or person.
Basking sharks are have quite poor vision and are often focused on feeding on dense plankton. This means people may accidentally get too close and the shark will panic suddenly.
It's definitely time to move away if: 
  • It's a while before the basking shark resurfaces and starts feeding
  • They increase their swimming or travelling speed 
  • A basking shark lashes its tail - it may be about to breach or dive. 
Tips to avoid disturbing basking sharks: 
  • Keep clear of large groups - they are likely to be gathering to breed 
  • Avoid sharks swimming close together nose to tail, as you may disrupt courtship behaviour 
  • Keep clear of areas where they've been seen breaching
  • Ensure all encounters are on their terms by, ideally, only being close to them if they choose to be close to you 
  • If you find yourself unexpectedly close, slow down or stop and allow them to pass. If safe, put the engine into neutral so there is no chance of injuring them with the propeller, as there may be others under the surface.