Basking Sharks

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Basking Shark at Avalon Bay.
Charles F. Holder in straw hat standing looking down.
Basking Shark

Basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) are the second largest living fish, after the whale shark. They are slow-moving filter-feeders that feed on plankton. Basking sharks are found in all the world's temperate oceans.

In the News~

March 9, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “The report that an unusually large shark had been caught by the fishermen early this morning drew large numbers of people to the wharf to get a look at the monster. In this they were disappointed, as the Italians in whose nets the shark became entangled, towed the fish to deep water, charging a fabulous price for the privilege of viewing it from a malodorous dinghy. From all accounts, however, it is a valuable species, the basking shark, identical with the kind captured a week ago at Monterey, and for a good specimen of which it is said the British Museum has a standing offer of several thousand dollars. Those who caught a glimpse of the fish before it was fastened to a buoy out from shore, describe it as a full thirty feet in length, of a black color, red snout, small, sharp teeth proving that it is a youngster, and a smooth skin. This description tallies with that given of the basking shark, and the local fishermen state that they have never come across another like it in size or appearance. Their blind cupidity, however, militates against their getting any offer for the rarity.”

March 10, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “The fisherman in whose nets the huge backing shark was captured, were induced to exhibit the leviathan at the wharf side, and quickly had an offer for $40, which they refused, followed by another of $50 from Mr. Rogers, with which they closed. The monster, with the aid of blocks, tackle, and the steamship Corona, was, after one or two failures, hoisted into the pier, and handed over to Taxidermist Jess for mounting. This will occupy a couple of weeks, and on its completion, the shark will be sent to the Midwinter Fair.”

March 15, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “The big shark. Some unhung scoundrel has lopped two or three inches off the extended fluke of the big shark’s tail now undergoing a pickling process preparatory to mounting. One hundred dollars is offered for information leading to the conviction of the wretch; it is even stated that if the perpetrator will himself acknowledge the deed, he will be given the money, and need not fear arrest. As a matter of detail however, he will probably be lynched for we are justly proud of that shark. Three barrels of oil from the liver were shipped Tuesday to San Francisco by Mr. Rogers. The oil has a medicinal value equal to that obtained from cod liver, and finds a ready market. The present idea is to exhibit the shark properly mounted in Mayor Gaty’s Amphibia at the Fair…”

January 12, 1910 [SBMP]: “When the fishing boat S. Nik Komiza of Santa Barbara returned to port yesterday morning, she had in tow a species of basking shark which measured over 25 feet in length and was estimated to weigh between 4 and 5 tons. This monster of the sea had been engaged in the fishing nets and had strangled itself... There is no commercial value to this monster and it will be towed to sea where heavy weights will be attached to it and left to sink, a prey to its fellow fishes.”

January 22, 1913 [SBMP]: “A basking shark, 25 feet long and weighing about three tons, accidentally became enmeshed in a net that was hauled in by the fishing boat San Nicolas yesterday in the channel. The huge fish was towed to the wharf alive. This shark is not of the common man-eating variety, but became so entangled in the net that it was necessary to kill it in order to clear it. The tail of the fish also had to be severed. The shark was then towed out to the buoy and there was turned adrift…”