Rare, Enormous Shark Seen off California Coast

Basking shark (Chris Gotschalk / Wikimedia Commons)
Chris Gotschalk / Wikimedia Commons

Tourists aboard a whale-watching boat two miles off Capistrano Beach Thursday evening spotted two rare basking sharks — the second-largest fish of any kind in the ocean, and a species so rare there is a special hotline for sightings.

The sharks were noticed by Captain Steve Burkhalter of Capt. Dave’s Dolphin Safari and Whale Watch, according to the Orange County Register. They were identified by their characteristically large dorsal fins above the water.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has listed the basking shark as a species of concern due to its dwindling numbers. The Register notes that while schools of basking sharks with hundreds or thousands of fish were once seen in the region, the Eastern North Pacific region now only has a few hundred basking sharks left.

The sharks are not dangerous to humans. They are filter-feeders, sifting plankton through their enormous mouths.