The basking shark, scientific name Cetorhinus maximus, Manx name Gobbag vooar (big mouth) is the second largest fish in the world and we, in the Isle of Man, are fortunate enough to have a large number of them coming through our coastal waters from May to September.
They are named basking sharks because of their habit of 'basking' at the surface of the water. They feed by filtering out plankton from the water in a similar manner to whales. Despite their huge size they are completely harmless to man. Unlike bony fish that can produce millions of young in a year basking sharks are viviparous (live bearing) and therefore breed exceedingly slowly. They are, therefore, very vulnerable to over-exploitation.
They may reach 10m in length but the biggest ones we see in Manx waters are normally 8m long. They have five pairs of very large gill slits that surround the head. More details on the biology and behaviour of Basking Sharks can be found on the Manx Whale & Dolphin Watch website.
Also on the Manx Wildlife Trust's Manx Basking Shark Watch website is tips on watching for basking sharks including when and where to look for the best chances of success. Their site also details recent sightings and if you are lucky then you can report it online via their site.
Acknowledgement: Manx Basking Shark Watch