Are basking sharks on the comeback trail? After decades of only occasional basking shark sightings, people are now seeing many of them in California waters again.
Basking Shark Sightings
In the past decades, basking sharks have rarely been sighted in California waters, but recent reports reveal that people have been having sightings of 10 to 20 basking sharks swimming and feeding in the area.
It all began in mid-April when a group of tourists at Santa Cruz Island observed about 15 basking sharks swimming around their boat, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was immediately notified. Since then, people have been spotting the creatures near the island about every other day, mostly in the Santa Barbara Channel, but at other times in Ventura, Sana Monica, and Long Beach.
This reappearance of basking sharks in the area is significant after they nearly disappeared in the 1960’s because they were being harvested for livers and fins, or for instance in Canada where they were being eliminated for their interference with salmon fishing.
By 2009, the NOAA listed basking sharks as a “species of concern,” and in 2010 and 2011 funded two projects to track the creatures’ movements. The agency has also been asking for the public’s help in spotting basking sharks, but sightings have been scarce in recent years.
Basking Shark Population
Does this mean the basking shark populations are on the rise? Researchers say it may be too early to determine that the basking shark population is, indeed, recovering. However, the reasons behind the creatures’ return may be a little bit clearer.
According to some experts, it is likely that the warming waters are helping marine creatures to thrive, both for the basking sharks and for their prey as well. Furthermore, the warming waters are leading the creatures to move northward, which is likely why there are more sightings of them than before.
That said, they say that it is still too early to make conclusions about basking sharks, as their movements remain a mystery, even in normal conditions.