Cetorhinus maximus (North Pacific subpopulation)


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Cetorhinus maximus (North Pacific subpopulation)
Species Authority: (Gunnerus, 1765)
Parent Species:
Common Name(s):
English Basking Shark

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2ad ver 3.1
Year Published: 2009
Date Assessed: 2005-10-01
Assessor(s): Fowler, S.L.
Reviewer(s): Musick, J.A. & Cavanagh, R.D. (Shark Red List Authority)
The Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is a very large, filter-feeding cold-water pelagic species that is migratory and widely distributed, but only regularly seen in a few favoured coastal locations and probably never abundant. Most documented fisheries have been characterised by marked, long lasting declines in landings after the removal of hundreds to low thousands of individuals. Its fins are among the most valuable in international trade. Basking Sharks are legally protected in some territorial waters and listed in CITES Appendix II. Compagno (1984) considers the species "to be extremely vulnerable to overfishing, perhaps more so than most sharks, … ascribed to its slow growth rate, lengthy maturation time, long gestation period, probably low fecundity and probable small size of existing populations (belied by the immense size of individuals in their small schools)".

The global status of the Basking Shark is assessed as Vulnerable, with the North Pacific and Northeast Atlantic stocks, which have been subject to target fisheries, assessed as Endangered. These assessments are based primarily on past records of rapidly declining local populations of basking sharks as a result of short-term fisheries exploitation and very slow population recovery rates.
2000 Endangered

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: In the North Pacific, the species occurs around Japan and off the Chinese coast, and from California north to British Columbia. The different morphological characteristics of Basking Sharks in the Pacific and the north and south Atlantic oceans are not thought to indicate separate species (Compagno 1984), but are geographically isolated subpopulations.
Canada; China; Japan; Russian Federation; United States
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – northeast; Pacific – northwest
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Systems: Marine

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The Basking Shark has been exploited for several centuries to supply liver oil for lighting and industrial use, skin for leather and flesh for food or fishmeal. Modern fisheries yield liver oil, fins, meat and cartilage.

Bibliography [top]

Compagno, L.J.V. 1984. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125, Volume 4, Part 1.

IUCN. 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2009.2). Available at: (Accessed: 3 November 2009).

IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group. Specialist Group website. Available at:

Shark Specialist Group. 2000. IUCN Shark Specialist Group Red List Assessments, 2000 (unpublished report).

Citation: Fowler, S.L. 2009. Cetorhinus maximus (North Pacific subpopulation). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 03 September 2015.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided