Basking shark swims onto list of endangered species

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A Shark that summers in Scottish waters is to be given international protection due to fears that it is on the brink of extinction. The basking shark, the world’s second largest fish, can be found in warm seas off the coasts of 48 different countries.

In the UK, the shark traditionally spends the summer in Gulf Stream waters near Cornwall, but global warming has led to an increase in sightings off Scotland’s west coast.

Delegates from the 95 signatories to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) agreed at a conference in Kenya this week to add the fish to a list of endangered species that require international protection.

The basking shark was added to a “red list” of endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in 1996. But as the shark is migratory, it requires protection by multiple governments, which it received yesterday.

Delegates agreed to meet again to hammer out the details of protection schemes.

Susan Lieberman of WWF International said: “This initial agreement is very significant. We look forward to the governments of the world collaborating for the benefit of the conservation of migratory sharks.”

Basking sharks can reach lengths of 11 metres and weigh up to seven tonnes. They are plankton feeders, and can be spotted on the ocean surface with their mouths agape.

Females have a long gestation period and give birth to few young, making the population unstable when stocks are depleted. The fish has been protected in UK waters since 1998, but they are vulnerable to accidental catches, beachings, entanglements and collisions, wildlife experts said. They are also still hunted illegally in many countries.

The attempt to add the species to the list was spearheaded by delegates from the UK and Australia, according to sources at the convention.

UK biodiversity minister Jim Knight said: “We are incredibly lucky to have the basking shark as a regular visitor to our shores and it is appalling that an unsustainable demand for its meat and fins could be a real threat to its future.

“The basking shark is an amazing creature and I am determined that we do everything in our power to protect it.”

The basking shark was one of 11 species to be added to the convention’s protection list, which now includes 118 species.

Source: The Scotsman