A large basking shark was spotted feeding close to Gibraltar at the weekend, one of several dramatic sightings in British waters in recent days.
A humpback whale was also seen in the Bay of Gibraltar and there were reports of a killer whale not far from the Rock.
Dr Eric Shaw, head of the marine section of the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society, said the sightings illustrated the diversity of marine life in Gibraltar’s waters.
He told the Chronicle the waters around the Rock were a rich feeding ground for all sorts of marine animals.
“The Strait of Gibraltar acts as a bottleneck and everything concentrates here,” he said.
The shark was filmed by the Department of the Environment, which released footage to the media showing it feeding on the surface, its dorsal and tail fins clearly visible.
Basking sharks are among the largest in the world but are harmless and feed on plankton.
Dr Shaw said that while sightings of basking sharks are not common in these waters, they are not rare either.
He said increased leisure activity out at sea meant the number of sightings would also increase.
The shark is not a threat to humans, but humans are considered a huge threat to them as they are hunted for their liver which is used for the production of oil.
Adult specimens weighing up to four tons and measuring 10 meters long are capable of filtering 2,000 tons of water every hour.
According to Shark-World.com the basking shark is found in locations throughout the world but the prefer to live in warmer water temperatures
“They are one of the few species of sharks that form groups as most sharks are loners. The group may only have a few members or it can have up to 100. The larger sized groups are very rarely found though,” said the website.
Humpback whales have been spotted close to Gibraltar several times in recent months.
Dolphin Adventure’s marine biologist, Rocio Espada, photographed the whale on Sunday and said it was a rare visitor to the actual bay area.
Earlier this year, a crew on a Customs vessel filmed a humpback whale breaching just off the east side of the Rock.
Last weekend, members of GONHS also spotted an orca in British waters.
The Strait of Gibraltar is home to an unusual pod of killer whales.
New research published recently suggests killer whales in the Strait of Gibraltar are socially, genetically and ecologically distinct from other groups in the north Atlantic and Canaries.
Main photo of humpback whale by R. Espada from Dolphin Adventure.