Long-term satellite tracking reveals variable seasonal migration strategies of basking sharks in the north-east Atlantic

Sci Rep. 2017 Feb 20;7:42837. doi: 10.1038/srep42837.


Animal migration is ubiquitous in nature with individuals within a population often exhibiting varying movement strategies. The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is the world's second largest fish species, however, a comprehensive understanding of their long-term wider-ranging movements in the north-east Atlantic is currently lacking. Seventy satellite tags were deployed on basking sharks over four years (2012-2015) off the west coast of Scotland and the Isle of Man. Data from 28 satellite tags with attachment durations of over 165 days reveal post-summer ranging behaviours. Tagged sharks moved a median minimum straight-line distance of 3,633 km; achieving median displacement of 1,057 km from tagging locations. Tagged individuals exhibited one of three migration behaviours: remaining in waters of UK, Ireland and the Faroe Islands; migrating south to the Bay of Biscay or moving further south to waters off the Iberian Peninsula, and North Africa. Sharks used both continental shelf areas and oceanic habitats, primarily in the upper 50-200 m of the water column, spanning nine geo-political zones and the High Seas, demonstrating the need for multi-national cooperation in the management of this species across its range.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Northern
  • Animal Migration / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Denmark
  • Satellite Communications
  • Scotland
  • Seasons
  • Sharks / physiology*
  • Spain
  • United Kingdom