Basking sharks vanished from the waters of North America decades ago but have recently started popping up around the waters of California. These gigantic sharks are filter feeders, hanging out near the surface of the water collecting plankton in their gaping maws.
Spotted in California this April, basking sharks up to 25 feet were seen having a meal off Santa Monica Bay. This surprised marine biologists, because they weren't sure that basking sharks would reappear in these waters.
While not an endangered species, basking sharks are a popular choice for commercial fishers because their fins are coveted for shark fin soup. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is asking the general public to help them track the sharks if anyone sees them.
Marine biologists aren't sure if this signals a comeback for the species in Californian waters. Last time these sharks were seen in North America was in July 2015 when a large school of basking sharks was spotted in Monterey Bay.
The gentle giants pose no threat to humans and aren't known to attack swimmers. These sharks are the second-largest species of shark, after the whale shark. Some can reach up to 30 feet in length!
Basking sharks skim along the surface of the water collecting plankton and other microorganisms in their giant mouths.
They've never been known to eat anything bigger than that, so you'll be fine if you encounter one in the wild. The average basking shark can filter roughly 500 tons of water per hour while it's feeding!
Though they might be gentle and maybe even cute to some people, if I see one of these big boys in the water, I'm having an instant panic attack. I mean, just look at this dude.
That's a big no from me, dawg. These sharks are most often found swimming off the coast of Scotland. Because they are extremely rare, it's difficult for marine biologists to track and tag their movements.
NOAA actually says not to panic if you encounter one in the wild because basking sharks will be able to spot you and quickly change their direction or slow down.
Still though, while they are gentle and don't want to harm you in any way, I'll be staying out of the ocean for the foreseeable future.
If you're in California and spot a basking shark, be sure to email NOAA at firstname.lastname@example.org so that you can help further basking shark research.