PORTLAND, Australia — A rare 6.3-meter-long basking shark was accidentally caught by a trawler in seas near Portland, in southwestern Australia.
The last recorded capture of the species was in the 1930s at Lakes Entrance in the state of Victoria, Australian public broadcaster ABC reported.
Museum Victoria said in a statement it was only the third time a shark like this has been seen in the region in more than 160 years.
As the second biggest fish species in the world after the whale shark, the basking shark got its name for its gentle, slow-moving nature and preference for warmer waters. Adults can grow to be 12 meters long.
Researchers are excited about the insights to be gained from the discovery of the 2-tonne male fish. Scientists from Museum Victoria traveled to Portland to take its measurements and collect samples to build a full-scale exhibition model of the shark.
“These rare encounters can provide many of the missing pieces of knowledge that help broader conservation and biological research,” said Martin Gomon, Museum Victoria’s senior curator of ichthyology.
The plankton-eating sharks have long been vulnerable to the multi-million-dollar shark fin trade, the museum says.
They are now protected in some territorial waters under various EU, UK and international laws, though illegal trade and hunting continues.