Endangered Shark With Massive Mouth Caught on Video Feeding in Rare Sighting

A wildlife ranger in Scotland had a rare encounter with an endangered basking shark Monday.

In a video shared by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), the shark can be seen opening and closing its massive mouth while feeding on zooplankton.

"Our St Kilda rangers get very close to a basking shark," tweeted the organization on Monday. "If you encounter animals in the water, please follow the guidance in The Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code, and take extreme care not to disturb the animals or put yourself in danger."

Our St Kilda rangers get very close to a basking shark 🦈😅
If you encounter animals in the water, please follow the guidance in The Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code, and take extreme care not to disturb the animals or put yourself in danger. #ForTheLoveOfScotland pic.twitter.com/FXDnt00FQa

— National Trust for Scotland (@N_T_S) August 9, 2021

The video has received more than 3,000 views between Facebook and Twitter.

Craig Nisbet, the NTS ranger who spotted the shark, told the BBC that he spotted the shark from the beach of Village Bay in St. Kilda. Wanting to record the shark on camera, he donned his snorkeling gear and set to take a photo of the fish from a distance.

However, as he swam back to shore, Nisbet stopped near a buoy and watched as the gentle creature swam towards him.

"I returned to land, scarcely able to believe what I'd just seen," Nisbet said. "I washed my camera and downloaded my images and video and was delighted with the images and footage I'd captured."

He said that the shark opening and closing its mouth was a sign that it was in the process of feeding on the zooplankton on the water.

Basking sharks are an endangered species. According to the Scottish Wildlife Trust, basking sharks have been commercially hunted for the oil in their livers, which has been used to make cosmetics, perfumes, lubricants and lamp oils. Multiple reports also state that their fins are highly sought after in the shark fin trade, which is illegal in both the U.S. and the U.K.

As previously stated, basking sharks feed on plankton. In fact, their large mouths allow them to filter the plankton out from the seawater.

Though these sharks are massive — they are considered to be the second-largest fish in the ocean, behind only the whale shark — they are mostly harmless to humans. As such, they aren't interested in humans, which is why Nisbet was able to get so close. However, their skin is rough and could cause injury should a diver get too close—so wildlife officials encourage all swimmers, divers and fishers to adhere to local guidelines when observing marine life to avoid accidental injury.

Basking sharks can be found throughout the Arctic and temperate waters and can be spotted near coasts in the summer and early fall months. Once September/October hits, these gentle giants migrate to different parts of the ocean, so be on the lookout before they disappear for the winter.

basking shark
Endangered basking shark caught on video feeding in rare sighting. Rebecca-Belleni-Photography/iStock