Protective improvements sought for basking sharks in Fundy

A research project in the Bay of Fundy is adding to what little is known about the basking shark.

Florida doctoral student studies huge sharks in Bay of Fundy with eye to getting help for species

University of Florida doctoral student Zachary Siders says he knew he wanted to the study the elusive basking shark after his first glimpse of one in the Bay of Fundy.

"Absolutely the first boat trip into the Bay of Fundy we were cruising along and lo and behold this two-metre fin comes breaking through the waves and after that it just captivated me," says Siders.

As big as a bus, the basking shark is the second largest living fish.

Almost everything about it is huge. Its mouth opens two metres wide. Every couple of hours while feeding, it ingests enough water to fill an Olympic swimming pool.

Despite its formidable size, surprisingly little is known about the basking sharks that visit the Bay of Fundy. Siders says they spend only about 20 per cent of their time at the surface, which is a challenge when researching the animal. 

Siders spent the summer of 2012 off Grand Manan, monitoring basking sharks in the Bay of Fundy. He's just published his findings. His work is focused on tracking basking sharks in the area, where they move and spend their time.

Siders says around the world, basking sharks are listed as a vulnerable species. In the Pacific and United Kingdom regions, they are considered endangered.

But in Atlantic Canada, they are noted as a species of special concern.

Siders would like to see the Bay of Fundy's basking shark moved up the list.

"I hope that this research in part can aid in that upgrading, from out of that data-deficient species of special concern status, and get them into an actual listing status where they have some provisions for their protection," says Siders.

The next step of Siders research will look at how many basking sharks come to the Bay of Fundy and how they are impacted by industry and human activity.

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