Basking Shark

Cetorhinus maximus

What do they look like?

The basking shark has a huge grey body and swims with its cavernous mouth wide open. It has a thick triangular dorsal fin two-thirds of the way down its back. Its tail fin is almost crescent-shaped. Five long gill slits run from the back of the head to below the throat. The largest shark in Scottish waters, the Basking Shark can grow up to 11 metres - longer than a bus!

Where can I see them in Scotland?

Found in all Scotland’s seas between May and September but most frequently sited on the west coast. Can migrate long distances in the winter including to the Azores and Newfoundland.

Fun Fact
The basking shark is the second largest fish in the world, second only to the whale shark. Basking Sharks can detect the levels of plankton in the water and travel hundreds of miles to feed in areas that have high levels of plankton.

50 years
Average Lifespan
11 metres long
Can Grow Up To

Find Out More
Did you know that Scotland has recorded 66 species of elasmobranchs (sharks, skates and rays in its waters)? Dive into this learning pack to discover more about the fascinating world of sharks, skates and rays!

How to wildlife watch responsibly

There are lots of ways to experience the marine environment, including coastal walks, boat trips, sports, photography, and many other exciting recreational activities. However, people enjoying marine spaces can sometimes unintentionally cause disturbance or distress to wildlife, or damage precious marine habitats.

According to the Guide to Best Practice for Watching Marine Wildlife, disturbance is: “The result of direct or indirect interaction with people that changes the behaviour of an animal or changes the environment, which in turn affects the well-being or survival of an animal in the short, medium or long term.

Understanding wildlife disturbance and minimising your impact might not be as simple as you think. Different species can react very differently to direct and indirect human interaction. For further guidance on how you can enjoy the marine environment responsibly, without having a negative impact on the wildlife and habitats around you click on this link.

Further resources

Explore our Dive in Pack on Elasmobranchs (sharks, skates and rays) or visit The Shark Trust's website for more facts.

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