THIS summer has seen a spectacular rise in the number of sightings of basking sharks off Brittany – with nature watch groups told of 160 sightings off south Finistère.
Since April, the shark protection group Association pour l'Etude et la Conservation des Sélaciens (Apecs) said it had received many sightings near the Glénan group of islands and said it was an “exceptional” year.
Despite their size – they can reach 12 metres, weigh 19 tonnes – basking sharks are not dangerous to humans and are generally placid and slow-moving. They are filter feeders and have only tiny teeth.
In previous years Apecs said that it received no more than 50 sightings a year but 30 were reported last month along with 10 different individuals being identified – with the largest being around 10m.
Basking sharks are the second largest fish – after the whale shark – and prefer cooler northern waters to the warmth of the South Seas. Only their dorsal and caudal fin show above the water and they are generally seen with their mouths wide open to filter the plankton on which they feed.