News State Victoria News Rare basking shark donated to researchers

Rare basking shark donated to researchers

Museum Victoria
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The remains of a rare basking shark caught off the coast of south-west Victoria have been donated to research to help reveal the “missing pieces of knowledge” about the species.

The 6.3-metre basking shark was caught by Portland-based trawler Castella Rosa on Sunday.

Museum Victoria has flagged plans to develop a full-scale model of the shark.

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Scientists spent Monday extracting tissue samples, stomach contacts and vertebrae to take back to Melbourne for further research to determine the shark’s relationship to populations in the northern hemisphere.

Museum Victoria’s Dr Marton Gomon said these encounters could provide many of the “missing pieces of knowledge” that help broader conservation and biological research.

Basking sharks are the second biggest fish species on the planet after the whale shark, but little is known about them.

Museum Victoria
The sharks have weak jaws lined with tiny teeth just 2mm long. Photo: Museum Victoria

The slow-moving plankton feeders grow to up to 12 metres long but have weak jaws linked with tiny teeth.

The last time there was a recorded capture of the shark was in the 1930s, by a skipper at Lakes Entrance in eastern Victoria.

Basking sharks are listed globally as being vulnerable because of the illegal shark fin trade.

Simon Boag from the South East Trawl Fishing Association said there was a lucrative market for basking shark fins.

“I was told today by an exporter that the fins alone were worth $25,000 and the liver would have fetched quite a bit,” Mr Boag said.

He said they were pleased the captain decided to donate it to research.

“Some of it will go to Feiro [Marine Life Centre], in the United States, the museum and international researchers, so we’re really glad that it’s had some purpose in death,” he said.

The museum’s Di Bray said a basking shark was recently filmed feeding in Western Port Bay.

“As they do not need to breathe air like whales and dolphins, they are not so commonly seen at the surface,” she said.

-ABC

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