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Basking shark

The dorsal fin may be visible as this plankton-eating shark is seen filter feeding near the surface. Its open mouth is about 2 metres wide. In calm conditions it may be seen close to the shore although is generally in deeper waters. The second largest fish in the world, it reaches up to 12 metres in length and weighs up to 7 tonnes. They are slow moving sharks, which may approach boats but are harmless.

This summer visitor migrates up the Irish Sea in the Gulf Stream, attracted by the zoo-plankton blooms of these warmer waters. In autumn they move south again and spend the winter living at depth along the edge of European continental shelf out in the Atlantic.

Found along the West Coast of Scotland and out to sea from Galloway to Caithness and the Hebrides. Basking sharks may be viewed from the shore in sheltered bays, where there are rocky promontories and deeper water, not usually along shallow sandy beaches. Responsible viewing from boats is more rewarding.

Basking sharks can be individually recognised and they are monitored by a range of organisations, including the UK Wildlife Trusts and data on individual sharks can be seen on

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin

Tursiops truncatus

The Scottish bottlenose dolphins are considerably larger than their cousins living in the warmer waters off Florida, USA. These dolphins can be between 3 and 4 metres in length and are normally to be seen in pods (groups) of up to ten animals. Pods can fo...

Minke whale

Minke whale

Balaenoptera acutorostrata

This is the smallest of the baleen family of whales to be found in Scottish waters, being between 8.5 and 9 metres long. This whale weighs about 10 tonnes and is usually seen singly or as a cow with her calf. When the cow gives birth to a single calf, ...