Moment huge 16ft basking shark swims alongside boat off the coast of Cornwall in first UK sighting this year
- The basking shark swims close to the boat in Portloe Bay, Truro, Cornwall
- Shark was spotted by Falmouth based AK Wildlife Cruises guide Georgia Bardua
- Local wildlife crew had been testing out their boat when they spotted creature
A 16ft basking shark has been spotted swimming alongside a boat off the British coast for the first time this year.
Footage shows the giant sea creature, which is the second-largest shark in the world after the whale shark, swimming just below the surface in Portloe Bay, Truro, Cornwall.
The creature approaches the surface of the boat before sinking into the waters and disappearing from view.
A local wildlife cruise crew had been testing out their boat on April 4, prior to re-opening for passengers today, when they spotted the shark swimming just beside their vessel.
The 16ft basking shark swims just below the water in Portloe Bay, Truro, Cornwall
The local wildlife cruise crew had been testing out their boat on April 4 when they spotted the shark
The shark was spotted by Falmouth based AK Wildlife Cruises guide Georgia Bardua who said she was astonished.
She said: ‘It was really exciting and very unexpected. It was quite a big basking shark, and really nice to see and record.
‘There are only a handful of sightings around Cornwall every year. We used to spot quite a few around July time.
‘In the last few years they have been seen quite a lot earlier in the year.’
Ms Bardua believes the sighting may be due to a rise in sea temperature brought on by global warming.
She continued: ‘We recorded a sea surface temperature of 54F (12.2C) which is particularly warm for this time of year.’
Following the encounter, Captain Keith Reeves from AK Wildlife Cruises urged other boat owners to be especially careful not to hit the sharks.
He told The Falmouth Packet: ‘They are not very easy to see.
‘Our sighting of them when we initially saw them was just the tip of the dorsal fin, three inches and then five inches above the surface. We saw it for a brief moment.
The sea creature approaches the boat of the Falmouth based AK Wildlife Cruises before swimming away
‘They are very slow and are only just below the surface.
‘We are asking boat owners to take care and pay attention, if the sharks get hit by the boat hull it will slash their bodies and even kill them.’
Cornwall is among the most popular places to see basking sharks, along with western Scotland and the Isle of Man.
However it is unknown if the creatures live off the South-West or move down from the Hebrides where they are more common.
Ms Bardua added: ‘No one really knows where they come from, or where they go, so there is a lot of research being carried out at the moment into that.’
Basking sharks are the second-largest fish in the world and are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The creatures, which can grow up to 39ft-long, typically feature a black triangular dorsal fin, a bulbous snout and a cavernous jaw.
Despite its size, the basking shark only feeds on microscopic animals called zooplankton which it catches by opening its mouth and allowing the water to filter through its gills.
The sharks can be found across the world, including off the east coast of the US, Norway and in the Mediterranean.
What are basking sharks?
Basking sharks are the second-largest fish in the world and can grow up to 39ft. (Stock image)
Basking sharks are the second-largest fish in the world after whale sharks.
They have long gills which almost go completely around their heads.
The maximum size of the sharks is around 39ft but there have been unconfirmed reports of larger ones.
It is unknown how long they live, but scientists are trying to learn this by counting the number of vertebral spines – in a similar way to counting the rings of a tree trunk to discover its age – and comparing that to other animals whose age is known.
Basking sharks feed mainly on zooplankton and will swim slowly just beneath the surface with their mouths open to filter the tiny organisms from seawater.
They prefer to live in cooler waters, along coastlines and in open water, and can be found across the world.
Northern hemisphere countries where basking sharks can be found near include China, Korea, Japan, the east coast of the US, Great Britain and Norway, as well as in the Mediterranean.
In the southern hemisphere they can be found off Southern Australia, South America and the tip of South Africa.
These giants are relatively harmless to humans. According to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, they ‘are considered passive and no danger to humans other than that posed by their large size and rough skin.’
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